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Montag, 16. Mai 2011

How helpful is The Hague Convention?

When dealing with ethical issues in international adoptions one cannot ignore the Hague Convention of 1993. The Hague Convention established an intergovernmental consensus that parentless children should grow up in a family and allows for the case that no family in the country can be found international adoption as a reasonable measure for providing care for children. In order to prevent abuse and corruption, rules of procedure for the accreditation of agencies and a government supervision are arranged. Does the Hague Convention help to prevent unethical practices? 
The experience of the last 18 years is not overwhelmingly positive. While the number of international adoptions declines, this is not true for the of corruption and abuse. Countries close their adoption programs rather than that they introduce sustainable ethical procedures. On the other hand, the large sending and receiving countries, such as China, Russia, Ethiopia and the United States, have either not signed the Hague Convention or only recently. Is a stricter application of the Hague Convention the solution?
In a comprehensive legal and empirical analysis the lawyer and adoptive father David Smolin has examined the potential of the Hague Convention. He comes to the conclusion that ratification alone hardly helps to change practices. Rather the following conditions must be met in addition in order to give life to the Convention:

  1. Financial incentives through taxes and donations must be regulated, limited and made transparent.
  2. Receiving countries have to accept responsibility for the ethical standards in the sending countries.
  3. Known cases of child trafficking in foreign adoption must be publicly examined and taken as an opportunity to improve the process.
  4. Receiving countries which have ratified the Hague Convention (in particular the United States) must apply the same standards to countries that have not in order to stop unethical agencies from moving from one country with weak regulation to the next (such as from Guatemala to Ethiopia).
According to Smolin, the future of foreign adoption is threatened not by ideological debates (such as the accusation of neo-colonialism). Rather, the failure of those responsible to establish sustainable and ethically correct procedures despite the large financial resources that are spent lead to an increasingly sceptical attitude of sender countries and regularly to the closure of adoption programmes, rather than for their better regulation. In other words: The adoption advocates who turn a blind eye to ethical questions, undermine the process in the long run, because scandals lead to a reduction of foreign adoption. Perhaps this is a sign for hope.

First published in German on April 27th, 2011.

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