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International adoption: Hague Convention vs. 'Orphan'

Famine, flood, disease -- when the people of other countries suffer a disaster, the world seems to turn its attention to the plight of the children. Homeless, alone, their parents dead, missing or desperate, these children need help. Often, that help will come, in any number of forms from multiple sources. Adoption by individuals and families from other countries may be among them.

Of course, not every intercountry adoption is linked to a natural disaster, but a recent story from The Nation Media Group, an independent African news organization, brought the humanitarian side of international adoptions to mind. The article reported on the scientific and medical communities' efforts to understand the long-term effects, both physical and emotional, of the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

Anyone looking into adopting a child from another country should take a minute to learn about the process. Parents who have gone through adoptions here in Minnesota, for example, will quickly find out that there are significant differences between even an interstate and an intercountry adoption. While the laws of both Minnesota and the other state govern an interstate adoption, an intercountry adoption is subject to Minnesota law, federal law and the law of the other country.

The complexity does not stop there. In the United States, an intercountry adoption will follow either the Hague Convention process or the non-Hague Convention (also referred to as "orphan") process. Adoptive parents do not have a choice in the matter. If the child's home country is a party to the Hague Convention, that process applies. If not, the orphan process applies.

In our next post, we will explain the difference.

Source: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, "Intercountry Adoption," accessed June 18, 2015

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