Inter-Country Adoption New Zealand

Hague Convention #33

Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption

There are many international conventions established by the Hague Conference on Private International Law, but in adoption circles the term “Hague Convention” is used to mean the “Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, 1993”. It is an international agreement that establishes standards and procedures to safeguard children involved in intercountry adoptions and to protect the interests of their birth and adoptive parents, by carrying out adoptions in a clear and ethical manner. New Zealand has acceded to this Convention. ICANZ works under this Convention.

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Meetings are held to discuss the operation of the Convention. The ICANZ Director has attended these meetings to represent APIAF (Asia Pacific International Adoption Forum)

 The Hague Convention recognises the principles that
  1. Every child has the right to a permanent family, and where it is not possible for the child to remain with birth family or a local adoptive family, intercountry adoption might be appropriate;
  2. Adoption of children between countries should take place via agreed-upon procedures that are ethical, orderly, streamlined and protect the best interests of the child.
The Hague Convention’s main goals are to
  1. Establish agreed ethical standards that safeguard the best interests of children who may be adopted;
  2. Make it easier for countries to cooperate, thus preventing trafficking of children;
  3. Enable countries to trust the integrity of other countries adoptions as they follow standardised procedures and ethical standards, therefore to recognise adoptions carried out by the other countries.
This is put into practice by
  1. Establishment of a Central Authority (CA) to oversee the adoption process in each country. In New Zealand this is the Ministry of Social Development’s Department of Child, Youth and Family (CYF);
  2. Accreditation of any non-government organisation that wishes to work in adoption services. To be accredited, providers must pursue non-profit objectives, be staffed by trained and ethical persons, and supervised by the Central Authority. In NZ the standards that an accredited agency must meet include standards about organisation, management, finances, staff, monitoring, reporting, and the best interests of the child;
  3. Organisations can be accredited to carry out either the approvals (home studies) or the placement and post-placement steps. ICANZ is an accredited agency in NZ for placement and post-placement steps in the adoption;
  4. Standardization of intercountry adoption procedures. An adoption may take place only if:
    1. the country of origin has
      1. established that the child is adoptable,
      2. given due consideration to the child’s adoption in its country of origin,
      3. determined that an intercountry adoption is in the child’s best interest,
      4. been satisfied that after counselling, the necessary consents to the adoption have been given freely, with no financial inducements,
      5. given due (age appropriate) consideration to the child’s wishes.
    2. the receiving country (ie NZ) has
      1. determined that the prospective adoptive parents are eligible and suited to adopt,
      2. provided pre-adoption training and counseling,
      3. authorised the child to enter and reside permanently in that country.


For further, more detailed information on this convention, visit the Hague Conference on Private International Law website

How this Hague Convention Affects You

A. Do’s and Don’ts for you as a prospective adoptive parent:

1. NZCA Approval Required

Before a child can be adopted from one country to live in another, the Convention requires that the governments in both countries agree to proceed with the adoption. As a New Zealand resident, this means you must have the permission of the NZCA (after approval from Adoption First Steps or Oranga Tamariki Ministry for Children) as well as the overseas country in order to adopt. You can only adopt in countries that the NZCA approves for you. The Convention does not apply when the other country is not a party to the Convention, but NZ will follow the principles and standards of the Convention as far as possible, especially with regard to the permission of the Central Authorities.

2. No contact with orphanages until after approvals given.        

Article 29 of the Hague Convention states: There shall be no contact between the prospective adoptive parents and the child’s parents or any other person who has care of the child until the requirements of Article 4, sub-paragraphs a) to c), and Article 5, sub-paragraph a), have been met. Article 4 relates to the obligations of sending countries establishing the eligibility of the child for international adoption. Orphanages and foster parents have children in their care that are waiting to be adopted and may not yet have the approval of both Central Authorities. The process set out in Article 4 that must be followed before it is established that a child is available for international adoption is a lengthy one, requiring the Central Authorities to take all necessary steps to ensure that the legal obligations under the Convention have been met. During this process, any contact between a prospective adoptive parent and an orphanage or foster parent would be in breach of the Hague convention. Article 5 relates to the obligations of receiving countries establishing whether the adoptive parents are suitable to adopt. Article 5 prohibits contact between an orphanage or foster parent and a prospective adoptive parent who has yet to be approved by the Central Authority in their country of residence as eligible and suited to adopt

This means that as a prospective adoptive parent you cannot directly contact orphanages or foster parents to carry out an adoption yourself but must work via the NZCA and/or an accredited agency for each part of the adoption. After all approvals are given, you may certainly keep in contact with the orphanage/foster parent.

B. Benefits for you as a prospective adoptive parent:

The Hague Convention-

  1. Recognizes intercountry adoption as a means of offering the advantage of a permanent family to a child for whom a suitable family has not been found in the child’s country of origin and requires all concerned to act expeditiously. This establishes intercountry adoption as a valid option for children, provided the standards of the Convention are met, and requires those involved to act promptly whilst carefully;
  2. Requires that countries establish a Central Authority to cooperate with other Central Authorities, and to ensure the Convention operates effectively. This means the NZ Government has a responsibility to put the Convention into practice in NZ via the NZCA;
  3. Requires non-government adoption agencies to be accredited and monitored. This means you can engage the help of an independent non-government adoption agency such as ICANZ or AFS with confidence that the organisation has met the standards of the Convention and operates using sound professional practices;
  4. Establishes a set of internationally agreed minimum requirements and procedures uniformly to govern intercountry adoptions. This gives you, the adoptive parent, the security of knowing the governments concerned approved the adoption and did their best to ensure the child was legally able to be adopted, that no financial inducement was provided to birth parents or anyone caring for your child;
  5. Provides a means for ensuring that adoptions will be recognized in NZ and other party countries. This ensures your child will be allowed into NZ, gain NZ Citizenship and the adoption will be recognised by other countries as well.;
  6. Requires that countries placing children for adoption internationally must provide adopting parents with information and maintain background information and adoption records. This gives you assurance that the overseas CA will provide relevant information, and gives your child access to information in the years ahead.