October 14, 2009 / Star Tribune
A treaty called the Hague Adoption Convention aims to clean up abuses in international adoptions. It has been signed by more than 75 countries.
History: The 1993 treaty took effect in the United States on April 1, 2008. China and Guatemala, two countries where Americans have adopted the most, are now implementing the treaty.
What it does: U.S. adoption agencies must meet new standards and undergo an extensive review called accreditation if they wish to place children from countries that signed the treaty. If things go badly with an adoption, individuals may file online complaints with the U.S. State Department, which has assigned the task of investigating alleged wrongdoing to the same nonprofit organization that handles accreditations. Both the government and the nonprofit organization can penalize agencies that break the rules.
Accredited agencies must:
• Disclose fees and services
• Keep cash reserves, insurance
• Act ethically; prevent abduction, sale or trafficking of children
• Give 10 hours of training to prospective adoptive parents
• Use trained employees
What it doesn't do: The government did not mandate that all U.S. adoption agencies obtain accreditation to continue operating in foreign countries. Agencies that aren't accredited are only barred from running adoption programs in the countries that signed the treaty. Hague rules don't prevent these agencies from working elsewhere, including 17 nations where Americans have adopted children in the past decade. They include South Korea, Ethiopia and Haiti. Altogether, more than 100 countries have not signed the treaty, but most of them have never sent children to the United States.