Key Documents: Hague Regulation

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Corruption in international adoptions

  Orphaned or Stolen?
The U.S. State Dept.
  investigates adoption
  from Nepal, 2006-2008

"Anatomy of an Adoption Crisis,", September 12, 2010

"The Baby Business," Democracy Journal, Summer 2010

"The Lie We Love," Foreign Policy magazine, Nov./Dec. 2008




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Key documents:
  Hague regulation

This page outlines and links to the key documents involved in regulating and overseeing international adoption, as discussed in “The Baby Business," policy proposals for fairer international adoption practice.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

The international community woke up to unethical adoptions in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1989, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which included principles about preventing wrongful international adoptions. The United States has signed but not ratified this treaty, although in 2002 it did sign the CRC’s two optional protocols.


The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation In Respect of Intercountry Adoption

In 1993, 66 countries, including the United States, gathered at the Hague Conference on Private International Law to create the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation In Respect of Intercountry Adoption. To join the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, as it is known, a nation must commit itself to cooperate “to prevent the abduction, the sale of, or traffic in children” for international adoption. The United States signed the treaty in 1994.

  • The Hague Guide to Good Practice, or more formally, The Implementation And Operation Of The 1993 Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention: Guide To Good Practice, was published in 2008. It offers advice on implementing the Convention in a way that most effectively accomplishes the treaty’s aims.


The Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000

In 2000, the United States Congress ratified the Hague Convention by passing the Intercountry Adoption Act (IAA). The Hague Convention offers only a general outline of what signatories must do. Each nation writes its own laws to implement the Hague treaty’s requirements. In passing the IAA, Congress assigned the State Department the task of writing regulations, acting as the “central authority” mandated by the Hague, and overseeing the other specific requirements of the Hague Adoption Convention.


Department of State Hague regulations: 22 CFR Parts 96, 97, and 98


On Feb. 15, 2006, the State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues published its final Hague regulations in the Federal Register. These regulations lay out the standards that “adoption service providers” must meet in order to be accredited to arrange adoptions (or offer other related services) from countries that have enacted the Hague Adoption Convention. In accordance with the IAA, the Department of State assigned two private, nonprofit “accrediting entities” the task of reviewing adoption agencies to see whether they met the requirements for accreditation: the Council on Accreditation and the Colorado Department of Human Services (for agencies based in Colorado).



Council on Accreditation  

The Council on Accreditation is the only national organization that accepts adoption service providers’ (agencies and others) applications for accreditation to work on adoptions in countries that have signed the Hague Adoption Convention. CoA trains volunteers with professional experience in international adoption to review these application materials, conduct site visits, and assess applicants’ fitness for accreditation, in keeping with the materials above. CoA then accredits or denies those applications. For accredited providers, CoA assesses any complaints and reviews applications for re-accreditation. 

  Summary Decision

  Application FAQs

  Fee Schedule

  Policies & Procedures

  Temporary Hague

  Hague Accreditation
  & Approval

  Hague Accreditation
  & Approval

  Tables of Evidence

  Understanding the
  Hague Accreditation
  and Approval
  Standards and the
  Compliance System

U.S. Citizenship
and Immigration Services (USCIS)

The U.S. Department of State explains that “Children adopted from other countries must first obtain a U.S. visa before they can travel or move to the United States. Visas are issued at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the foreign country where a child resides. Since a child being adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen parent(s) will usually be brought to live in the United States, that child will need an immigrant visa.” 

  8 CFR Parts 103, 204,
  213a et al.
  Classification of Aliens
  as Children of U.S.
  Citizens Based on
  Adoptions Under the
  Hague Convention;
  Interim Rule

Before issuing an immigrant visa for an American’s adopted child, however, the USCIS has the responsibility of assessing whether that child qualifies under the relevant sections of the U.S. Immigration & Nationality Act, 101(b). The USCIS summarizes “orphan processing” on their website.

This Classification defines the USCIS's regulations for processing adoption visas for children adopted from Hague-signatory countries.

If USCIS denies a visa application for an orphan from a non-Hague country, a U.S. citizen may appeal. The relevant regulations can be found in the USCIS’s Adjudicator’s Field Manual, §21.5 Petition for an Orphan, especially (d) Adjudication of Form I-600. If the adoption is from a Hague-signatory country, the Department of State is responsible for assessing whether the adoption was valid; if yes, USCIS will issue the visa, as is explained in the Adjudicator’s Field Manual §21.6 Petition for a Hague Convention Adoption.

Regulations (Department of Homeland Security)

Beyond adoption: how else does the
U.S. help needy children?

PL 109-95: Orphans and Vulnerable
Children Act, 2005

In 2005, Congress passed a law to track, add up, and coordinate the U.S. government’s wide variety of child-related foreign aid efforts. The resulting Special Advisor on Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC), based at U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), holds regular coordinating meetings with the federal staff and agencies that have invested in children’s well-being outside the United States.

Many international child welfare groups back this office’s approach, and want to see it more fully funded. For instance, see the final paragraph on this page at Global Action for Children.

Families for Orphans Act of 2009

In 2009, Sen. Mary Landrieu and Sen. James Inhofe, in the Senate, and Rep. Diane Watson, in the House, introduced a controversial bill that would create a new State Department office to promote “permanent parental care for orphans,” through technical assistance and other means.

Organizations in favor. A number of individuals and adoption & children’s services organizations have created a coalition in favor of the FFOA. Go to Kidsave's Families for Orphans Coalition to learn more about their position and their responses to the opposition, below.

Organizations opposed. A number of child welfare organizations oppose the FFOA. Some of their reasoning can be found below:

NOTE: This page from the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism website offers documentation of and background about serious irregularities in international adoption. For the systemic analysis of corruption in international adoption, please read “The Lie We Love,” Foreign Policy magazine, Nov./Dec. 2008, and visit our webpages dedicated to international adoption. For ideas about fairer policy solutions, please read “The Baby Business,” Democracy Journal, Summer 2010.

© 2008-2011 Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, 02454. All rights reserved.

Last page update: February 23, 2011