The Hague Adoption Convention: In the Best Interests of the Child

U.S. Department of State - DipNote Blog

Alison Dilworth serves as the Adoption Division Chief for the Office of Children’s Issues in the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Lian, like many orphan children in China, is in an institution waiting for a loving, permanent home. His story, for me, is the epitome of my work these past two years in the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Office of Children’s Issues, the Central Authority for the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (the Hague Adoption Convention). Lian is protected and secure because of the laws and regulations that China implemented when they became a member of the Hague Adoption Convention. He will become part of a loving, permanent family, who will know all of the medical issues he faces and all of his history while in the care of the Chinese system before he joins them in the United States. His new family will be prepared to support and love him through the transition to his new home. Most of all, they will know that Lian is truly an orphan, with no family waiting for him, desperate to know if he is alive and well.

I have had the great honor and pleasure to run the Adoption Division these past two years. I came to the assignment as an experienced consular officer. I could issue a birth certificate for a new baby born abroad or evacuate a U.S. citizen in crisis with my eyes shut, but, serving most of my career in the Middle East, I had very little experience with adoptions. So I arrived as a blank slate. I leave two years later fully convinced that the Hague Adoption Convention is the absolute best framework for ethical, transparent, and secure intercountry adoptions.

The Hague Adoption Convention is a multilateral treaty among more than 80 countries, and it entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008. The Convention seeks to ensure that intercountry adoptions are made in the best interests of the child, and to prevent the abduction, the sale of, or trafficking in children. It works along with domestic child welfare systems to promote better lives for children worldwide, through ethical and transparent practices.

The Convention and its implementing legislation create rigorous nationwide standards for transparency and ethical practice for adoption service providers when they work with American families, children, and foreign authorities. The Department of State designates accrediting entities to evaluate adoption service providers, ensuring substantial compliance with Convention standards, protecting both the children and their American prospective adoptive parents.

I have seen all this first-hand over the past two years. I have visited 14 different countries, negotiated with dozens of Central Authorities, and participated in seminars, conferences, and workshops on all aspects of intercountry adoption. Time and time again I have seen success under the Hague Adoption Convention.

My mentor and colleague through all of this has been Ambassador Susan Jacobs, named by Secretary Clinton to be her Special Advisor for Children’s Issues. I have never known anyone to be as dedicated and committed to helping orphans in need find loving, permanent homes through truly ethical and transparent means. I have seen Ambassador Jacobs skillfully negotiate protection for children one hour, and the next get on her hands and knees to make eye-contact with a withdrawn child in an orphanage. She cares deeply for all vulnerable children, and I will be forever grateful to have had the opportunity to work with her.

Lian is now with his permanent family in the United States, slowly but surely adjusting to his new life and winning over everyone around him with that gorgeous smile, now even better after successful corrective surgery. His face, and the memories I have of all the children I have met overseas, make even the most difficult day worthwhile. I will carry them, and the pride for the good work we have done, with me for the rest of my life.

Visit adoption.state.gov for more information on the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Office of Children’s Issues, Adoption Division at the U.S. Department of State, and for updates on Special Advisor Jacobs’ travels, follow her on Twitter: @ChildrensIssues.


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