Wednesday, July 7, 2010

States gathered in The Hague admit the existence of child trafficking in the context of adoption

2 July 2010

Adoption: States gathered in The Hague admit the existence of child trafficking in the context of adoption

Published by Darcissac, Marion

After nine days of heated and intense discussions, the Hague Special Commission, a kind of general assembly of Member States to The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, was concluded. The discussions and the resulting conclusions will certainly have an important impact on the protection of children deprived of family care and will hopefully improve adoption practices in future. For the first time in the history of the Convention, States have accepted the existence of child abduction, trade and trafficking in the framework of intercountry adoption and openly debated on this issue – a historic opportunity created by the Permanent Bureau and those states that are at the forefront of ethical adoptions, such as Germany, Australia, Belgium, or Canada. Even though these States are not numerous, they are leading the pack both in terms of public positions and in practice.

In the discussions in the Hague, Terre des hommes defended the rights of children and their parents with a number of public statements:

1. The number of actors, or, more specifically, accredited adoption agencies, have to be LIMITED according to the number of children available for adoption and to their status in each country of origin. The authorization of many agencies leads to unhealthy competition between actors and puts pressure on the countries of origin to "provide more children". Therefore Tdh appeals for a joint responsibility of States. This would allow for the Receiving States to give authorization to accredited agencies to work in a given country only, while at the same time making it possible for the countries of origin to limit the number of adoption facilitating agencies. It has to be mentioned that the USA do not apply such an approval procedure and therefore do not limit the number of actors per country. This leads to an excessive demand of children and opens the door to all kinds of trafficking.

2. One key principle in intercountry adoption is that no improper financial or other gain should be made. This principle must be protected and no exceptions should be allowed. It is unfortunate that lawyers in the United States are allowed to make profit in intercountry adoption. Instead, only accredited bodies should be authorised. If lawyers continue to be approved for intercountry adoption they should be encouraged to enter such cases under their "pro-bono" quota. That way they would only charge the absolute necessary and would not make any profit.

3. From our point of view there is an insidious, somewhat sinister tendency to consider international adoption as the only option when domestic adoption is impossible. This goes against the principle of subsidiarity enshrined in Convention on the Rights of the Child and The Hague Convention, which requires looking at all domestic alternatives such as kinship (placement of children in their extended family), foster families or another appropriate manners of care before intercountry adoption is considered. Certain actors simply ignore or deny these alternatives in order to increase the number of children available for intercountry adoption. Tdh is opposed to such practices that respond solely to the needs of profit-making international adoption organizations and to a growing demand from the adoption "market". We think that there are excellent options in the countries besides domestic adoption and that national placement practices and community ownership should be strengthened.

Following an initiative of the Australian authorities, the Hague Special Commission has decided to create a working group to define high-level principles relating to the abduction, sale and trafficking of children in the context of intercountry adoption. Terre des hommes has already been invited to be part of that group. Let us hope that this additional tool will help us in defending the best interests of children in adoption.

After nine days of daily sessions, Marlene Hofstetter, expert on adoptions at Tdh, feels relieved. The position of Terre des hommes is becoming widely known and is strongly supported by above-mentioned countries. At the same time, Marlene is aware of the challenges that lie ahead and talks about our responsibilities: "Our priority for intercountry adoption is to ensure that the children's rights and their dignity are protected at all costs. After all, the children don't ask for anything – it's the adults who decide in this context, and therefore it's up to them to act responsibly".

The Hague Special Commission opened with the TDH/UNICEF Nepal documentary Paper Orphans:

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

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