The Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000: Are Its Laudable Goals Worth Its Potential Impact on Small Adoption Agencies, Independent Intercountry Adoptions, and Ethical Independent Adoption Professionals?

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For many American couples and singles looking to adopt a child, intercountry adoption provides an attractive alternative to the domestic adoption process. Whether the adoptive parents are motivated by humanitarian considerations or a perceived notion of an unavailability of adoptable U.S.-born children, intercountry adoption has become increasingly popular since its introduction to the international legal scene following World War II.l Indeed, statistics show that U.S. adoptions of foreign children have "doubled over the last decade, exceeding 16,000 in 1999," with four out of five internationally adopted children being adopted by U.S. parents.2

Experience and time, however, have shown that intercountry adoption is not always a positive experience for the adoptive parents, the biological parents and, perhaps most importantly, for the child. Stories abound of black market baby trades, of biological parents being coerced to relinquish their children, and of adoptive parents spending excessive sums of money to secure the adoption of a child who either doesn't exist or who exists, but has such severe disabilities as to make the adoption imprudent.3

In response to the abuses suffered by adoptive parents, biological parents, and adoptive children, the Hague Conference on Private International Law completed the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Convention) in May 1993.4 Among other things, the Hague Convention provides for the establishment of a Central Authority to oversee and coordinate international adoption procedures and establishes an adoption agency accreditation system.5

On October 6, 2000, President William Clinton signed the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA) into law for the purposes of implementing the 1993 Hague Convention in the United States.6 The IAA names the U.S. State Department of State as the Central Authority,7 heeds the Hague Convention's call for an accreditation system, and establishes criteria for agency accreditation.8

Despite the laudable goals of The Hague Convention and the IAA, an argument exists that implementation may cause problems for small adoption agencies, for those parents pursuing independent adoptions, and for those adoption professionals assisting in independent adoptions.9 This Note will address these arguments.

First, this Note examines the history of intercountry adoption as an alternative to the domestic adoption process and the problems associated with the intercountry adoption process that precipitated The Hague Convention and the enactment of IAA. second, it considers whether, by instituting substantive requirements regarding staff credentials and other ethical and practical standards, the IAA makes it impossible or excessively difficult for smaller adoption agencies to achieve accreditation. Finally, it addresses whether the failure of the IAA and the Hague Convention to regulate independent adoptions as an alternative to agency adoptions signals a preferred status to agency adoptions. Assuming this scenario, this Note addresses whether a preferred status to agency adoptions will result in "fewer people working to place children"10 or whether the agency accreditation system and the favoritism of agency adoptions are necessary to protect the parties involved in intercountry adoptions.


A. The Rise of Intercountry Adoption as an Alternative to Domestic Adoptions

World War II produced not only an abundance of newly "orphaned or abandoned children," but it also devastated economic and social environments in the war-torn countries.11 As a result, intercountry adoption became a prevalent alternative to the domestic adoption process.12 U.S. soldiers stationed abroad and expanded media coverage brought the plight of the abandoned and/or orphaned children home to the U.S. audience.13 A similar increase of intercountry adoptions occurred following the Korean and Vietnam wars. …


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