Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Hague for Haiti - a Dangerous Blessing?

On March 4th, 2011, the Haitian Ambassador signed the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption in Brussles, Belgium.

The Hague Convention, in simple terms, is an agreement between participating nations to ensure that the highest standards of transparency, ethics, and integrity are upheld during the intercountry adoption process to protect adoptive families, biological families, and most importantly, children.  It is an agreement which has the power to protect children and (hopefully) stop child trafficking.  But it can also be used as a weapon against children who have no acceptable options left in the country of their birth.

Haiti's signing of the Hague is public evidence of the country's desire to protect her children.  It is unfortunate that very few, if any, of the creche directors seemed to have been consulted or notified in advance, but the stated desire to more toward the Hague standards and the many layers of protection it offers is a dramatic step towards improvements in child welfare in Haiti (in the personal opinion of this blogger).

However, many of us who work for the children of Haiti are deeply concerned that the Haitian government is being pushed or even coerced into premature ratification of the treaty.  Ratification is a public declaration that a nation is currently following and adhering to all conditions and guidelines specified by the Hague Convention.  They are quite demanding, as well they should be.  The United States required 15 years between signing and ratifying the treaty to bring our own laws and procedures up to standard.  It seems most unreasonable to believe that Haiti is capable of doing so in only a few months.

In the past, when nations have ratified the Hague treaty prematurely, the effects on intercountry adoption have been devastating.  In Guatemala, Vietnam, and Nepal, other Hague nations have been forced to forbid their citizens to adopt from the newly Hague nation as those countries were unable to actually follow the guidelines they have stated they now uphold.  I do not think the authors of the Hague intended for the Convention to be used to stop adoptions - I believe they intended to protect children and ensure that intercountry adoptions were performed ethically.

I for one would love to see Haiti become a Hague nation.  I believe that the time to begin work on this process is immediately!  But only after several years of performing intercountry adoptions in full compliance with all Hague standards should any nation ratify the treaty.  The Hague Permanent Bureau itself advises internal implementation of their standards before a country ratifies.

So what will happen if Haiti does ratify the Hague Convention prematurely?  Most likely there will be a window where the US Department of State and other Hague nations still permitting Haitian adoptions will evaluate Haiti's adherence to the Convention to which she has become a party.  And once the discrepancies between the requirements of the Hague Convention and Haiti's current infrastructure and child welfare system are evaluated, other Hague nations will begin to revoke their citizens' ability to adopt from Haiti.  In the past, the United States as allowed families in the process of adoption in a nation that has ratified but cannot comply with the Hague Convention to complete their adoptions, but has disallowed new adoptions to begin.  Our agency is moving forward with the assumption that this will be the case in Haiti as well.

What can we do?  Pray.  Think twice before funding organizations that encourage countries to ratify the Hague Convention before they are ready.  Continue to support the Haitian Creche Directors' Association in their efforts to explain the implications of premature ratification to a few key Haitian senators.

It is a dark time in Haiti already.  Such a shame that many of the organizations working in children's services must now take time for politics.  We have so little time, and so many children in desperate need.

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