Hague Convention

The Hague Convention is a multilateral treaty regarding international law that concluded on May 29, 1993 in The Hague, Netherlands. The United States signed the Convention in 1994. In 2000 the U.S. Congress passed the Inter-country Adoption Act, which provides for U.S. implementation of the Convention. The U.S. Senate also gave its advice and consent authorizing U.S. ratification of the Convention once the preparations for its implementation are in place. The Department of State was designed as the U.S. Central Authority for the convention and undertook the position to make these preparations. The United States has treaty relationship under the Convention with Convention countries for adoption that take place between Convention countries as Convention adoptions.

The United States strongly supports the principles of the Convention, which strengthen protections for children, birthparents, and prospective adoptive parents in the adoption process. The Convention provides a framework for Convention countries to work together to ensure that adoptions take place in the best interest of children and to prevent the abduction, sale or trafficking of children in connection with inter-country adoption.

Major Advantages of the Convention and It’s Implementation

  • Provides, for the first time, formal international and intergovernmental recognition of inter-country adoption.
  • Recognizes inter-country adoption, as defined and treated by the Convention, as a means of offering the advantage of a permanent family to a child for whom a suitable family has not been found in the child’s country of origin.
  • Establishes a set of internationally agreed minimum requirements and procedures uniformly to govern inter-country adoptions in which a child moves from one Convention party country to another.
  • Requires that countries party to the Convention establish a Central Authority to be the authoritative source of information and point of contact in that country, to carry out certain functions, to cooperate with other Central Authorities, and to ensure effective implementation of the Convention in the United States. The Department of State is this authority in the United States.
  • Provides a means for ensuring that adoptions made pursuant to the Convention will generally be recognized and given effect in other party countries.
  • Facilitates the adoption by U.S. adoptive parents of children from other party countries through an expanded category of children, safeguarded by the Convention, who will qualify for immigration and automatic naturalization in the United States.

Summary of the Convention’s Provisions

  • The Convention will apply to adoptions in which children move from one Convention party country to another.
  • Such an adoption may take place only if: the country of origin has established that the child is adoptable, that due consideration has been given to the child’s adoption in its country of origin and an inter-country adoption is in the child’s best interests, and that after counseling, the necessary consents to the adoption have been given freely, AND, the receiving country has determined that the prospective adoptive parents are eligible and suited to adopt, and that the child they wish to adopt will be authorized to enter and reside permanently in that country.
  • Adoption agencies and individual providers of international adoption services may be authorized to perform designated functions with regard to individual adoption cases provided they have become Hague Convention accredited or approved.
  • Persons wishing to adopt a child resident in another party country must initially apply to a designated authority in their own country to obtain approval for inter-country adoption.
  • The Convention provides that, with limited exceptions, there can be no contact between the prospective adoptive parents and any parent or other person/institution that cares for the child until certain requirements have been met.
  • The Convention requires the recognition of Convention adoptions certified as such, unless recognition would be manifestly contrary to the country’s public policy, taking into account the best interests of the child.


U.S. adoption service providers have to be accredited on a national level pursuant to the standards established by the United States to provide adoption services in cases involving the United States and another Convention Country.

The accreditation regulations were published in February 2006 to ensure that U.S. adoption agencies perform their duties in a manner that is consistent with the Convention and the IAA. These regulations can be found at http://adoption.state.gov/.  Convention-accredited adoption service providers have been evaluated based on comprehensive standards contained in the accreditation regulations. As a general matter, all adoptions from Convention countries must involve a primary adoption service provider that is accredited.

How does the Hague accreditation protect families?

The accreditation regulations approve of Small World’s professional practices to make sure that they are sound. Three of the main practices that are evaluated are below.

  • Small World’s director has an appropriate education and management background with experience in adoption services
  • Small World has a board of directors that oversees the agency
  • Small World operates on a sound financial basis.
  • Small World properly trains their employees on inter-country adoption.

The accreditation regulations approve of Small World’s professional practices to make sure that they are ethical. Among other ethical practices Small World practices the following:

  • Small World forbids giving money to a child’s birth parents (or other individuals) as payment for a child or as an inducement to release a child.
  • Small World does not offer incentive fees for locating children or placing children for adoption.
  • Small World subjects our finances to independent audits.
  • Small World would disclose to the accreditors any written complaints, investigations by public authorities, instances when found guilty of a crime or civil or administrative violation, disciplinary actions, or bankruptcy petition.

For more information on the Hague Convention, the accreditation of agencies and working with an accredited agency please go to http://adoption.state.gov.