Marking 15 years of the Hague Adoption Convention in the UK

June 22, 2018
On 1 June 2003, the Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (1993 Hague Convention) came into force in the UK.

The purpose of the Convention is to regulate cross-border adoption. Signatory countries must have safeguarding measures in place to ensure that intercountry adoptions protect the best interests of the child and there is regulation to prevent the abduction, sale or traffic in children. For a list of signatory countries, click on the following link to the HCCH (Hague Convention) website.

A Hague Convention adoption guarantees automatic recognition for the adoptive parents across all signatory countries and, as such, is recognised as an ‘adoption’ under Section 66 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 in the UK. British nationality is automatically granted to the child at the time the adoption is made, if at least one of the adoptive parents is British and they are ‘habitually resident’ in the UK at the time of the adoption.

Broadly, the eligibility criteria for a Convention adoption from the UK confirms that the couple or individual wishing to adopt must be over the age of 21, has been ‘habitually resident’ in the UK for a period of no less than one year before the adoption, and has not been convicted of any ‘specified offences’ (including certain criminal offences against children and sexual offences).

If you are prospective adoptive parents looking to adopt from overseas, you should first make initial enquiries with an international adoption agency. The agency will provide you with practical guidance on intercountry adoption and your application will be taken forward for consideration if you are eligible and wish to proceed. You will then need to work with your agency throughout the assessment, including setting up home visits, attending preparation groups, obtaining personal references and background/medical checks.

Your allocated social worker will then prepare a Prospective Adopters’ Report which will be presented to your UK agency’s adoption panel. If you are approved as a prospective adopter (for international adoption), your application will be passed to the UK’s central authority for England (the Department for Education). They will carefully review your application to ensure that all the relevant information has been provided, before sending these details (with your issued ‘certificate of eligibility to adopt’) to the central authority of the country you intend to adopt from.

You can then start the matching process, which varies depending on which country you are adopting from. However, once you have been matched with a child, you will then need to follow the adoption legal process in their country or bring the child into the UK and apply for a Convention adoption order here. By virtue of Article 23 of the Hague Convention (and as explained above) an adoption order granted in either country will be automatically recognised by fellow signatory countries (although note that some countries do still require a post-adoption recognition process).

A Hague Convention adoption is lengthy and in-depth (the UK assessment process tends to take around 8-9 months alone) and the application itself is costly as the assessment process is not state-funded in the way it is if you adopt a child who is in the care of the state in the UK

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