Adoption Law

What Is a Hague Adoption?

A Hague adoption is when a person from one country legally adopts a child from another country. Both the adoptive parent and the child are from countries that are parties to the Hague Adoption Convention. The Hague Convention is an international agreement established to create standards and safeguards for inter-country adoptions. The convention protocols are intended to protect the child's best interests, birth parents, and adoptive parents.

International adoption can be a complex and stressful process. The best way to ensure someone is on your side is to consult with a local adoption attorney.

Hague Adoption Process

Adoption is a process that establishes a permanent legal child-parent relationship. The Hague Convention applies to all intercountry adoptions by U.S. citizens residing in the United States of a child who is a resident of another Hague Convention country. As of September 2021, there were 102 Hague party countries, including Ghana, Albania, Cambodia, and the Czech Republic.

There are adoption procedures that someone from the U.S. has to go through to adopt a child from a different country that has joined the Hague Adoption Convention:

  1. Select an accredited adoption service provider (ASP)
  2. Obtain a home study from an authorized provider
  3. Be approved as suitable and eligible to adopt a child or accept an international placement
  4. Obtain a proposed adoption placement to be matched with a child through the foreign country's Central Authority
  5. Petition to have the child eligible for admission to the United States
  6. Adopt or obtain legal custody of the child in the foreign country
  7. Obtain an immigrant visa for the child to come to the U.S.
  8. Travel home with your adopted child

Approved Adoption Agency

International adoptions may be required to go through approved or accredited adoption agencies. Accredited adoption agencies have been evaluated by the Department of State's Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity. Approved agencies have transparency requirements to disclose all fees and estimated expenses in writing. An approved ASP can:

  • Identify a child for adoption through the central adoption authorities
  • Secure the consent to terminate the birth family parental rights and consents for adoption
  • Perform a background study on the child and home study of the prospective adoptive parents
  • Decide the suitability of the adoptive placement in the best interests of the child
  • Monitor the case after the child is placed with the family
  • Assume custody of the child if there is an adoption disruption or through alternative placement

Hague Adoption Home Study

The home study assesses the eligibility and suitability for the prospective adoptive parents to take care of a child from another country. For convention adoptions, the home study must be prepared by an entity authorized to conduct Hague adoption home studies. The minimum requirements for a home study include an in-person interview, home visit, and interview with each adult member of the household. During the assessment, the preparer will evaluate:

  • Physical, mental, and emotional health issues
  • Financial considerations
  • Criminal history or history of abuse
  • Evidence of rehabilitation if there was a criminal history or history of abuse
  • Suitability of living accommodations
  • Addressing any country-specific requirements

If there are any significant changes in the prospective adoptive family, the home study should be amended or updated.

Adoption or Legal Custody in the Foreign Country

International adoption requires following multiple laws and regulations, including the adoption process of the child's country of birth, U.S. immigration laws, and the home state adoption laws. When a child is adopted from a Hague Convention country, the child receives a Hague Certificate issued by the U.S. Embassy or consular officer issuing the immigration visa.

The prospective adoptive parents must file immigration forms with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), including:

  • Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country
  • Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative

Form I-800A has to be filed and approved before petitioning for the adoptee. This form allows USCIS to determine if the prospective adoptive parent or parents can adopt a child from the designated partner country. After approval and when a specific child is matched for adoption, the prospective parents can file a Form I-800 petition to determine whether the child is eligible for adoption and immigration into the U.S.

Adoption From Non-Hague Convention Countries

The process for adoption from a non-convention country may be different. Children from countries like South Korea, Ukraine, and Ethiopia make up some of the highest numbers of foreign adoptions to the U.S. But all those countries are not currently Hague Convention countries.

International adoptions for U.S. citizens still require accredited or approved adoption service providers for non-Hague adoptions. However, these adoptions are processed by immigration laws under the Orphan Process (Form I-600A and Form I-600). If you have questions about a non-Hague intercountry adoption, talk to your adoption attorney for country information, visa categories, and legal advice.

The non-Hague adoption process may vary by country, with some countries requiring a home study approved by the child's birth country's adoption authorities. After preliminary approval, the adoptive parents may also have to go through a post-adoption home study to be approved by the child's country of origin. Non-Hague countries also have their own rules about who can adopt. For example, same-sex couples are explicitly banned from adopting children in Nigeria.