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Does the Hague Adoption Convention Improve or Depress Adoption ? An American Perspective Lynn D. Wardle Bruce C. Hafen Professor of Law Brigham Young University Provo, UT, USA. Colloquium on Adoption and Children in the Law International Society of Family Law

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Does the Hague Adoption Convention Improve or Depress Adoption? An American PerspectiveLynn D. Wardle Bruce C. Hafen Professor of LawBrigham Young University Provo, UT, USA

Colloquium on Adoption and Children in the Law

International Society of Family Law

Faculty of Education (Facoltà di Scienzedell'educazione), Viale Antonio Allegri 9, Reggio Emilia, Italy

April 27, 3012


UNICEF estimates about 100 million street children exist in the world today. About forty million are in Latin America, twenty-five to thirty million in Asia, and ten million in Africa

It is said that in Bogota, Colombia, 200,000 abandoned street children roam the streets

A 2002 UNICEF, UNAIDS study reported that in 2001 there were 108 million orphans (including 13 million AIDS orphans) living in 88 less-developed nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, and that by 2010 there would be 107 million orphans (including 25 million AIDS orphans), in those nations

The United Nations estimates that approximately 50,000 human beings die every day as a result of poor shelter, water, or sanitation, and parentless children are especially vulnerable to these ravages


International adoption is one important component in protecting the welfare of children. While it operates one-child-at-a-time, it makes a huge difference for each of those children, and through those children an even greater impact in the future

the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, generally known as “the Hague Convention on IntercountryAdoption

As of March 31, 2012, ninety (90) nations had signed, ratified, or acceded to this Hague Convention, and the HCIA had entered into force in all but three of those nations (in eighty-seven- 87 – nations)


Dr. Selman’s most recent report finds that “in 1998 there were just under 32,000 adoptions; by 2004 this number had risen to over 45,000; by 2009 the world total had fallen to under 30,000 – less than in 1998 – and the decline continued in 2010 . . . .” Clearly the trend was of international adoptions increasing through the 1990s, the decade in which the Hague Adoption Convention was adopted.


The United States completed the formal ratification procedures of the Hague Adoption Convention in December, 2007, and the Hague Adoption Convention was put into effect on April 1, 2008, in the United States


For six decades, since World War II, “[t]he United States has been the largest receiving country during this period, accounting for more than half of all international adoptions

For example, in 1999, the best estimate is that there were just over 32,000 intercountry adoptions in the leading fourteen adopting countries in the world, and over half, 16,363 adoptions, were of children coming to the USA

But some other countries have higher per capita intercountry adoptions. In 1998, the US rate of adoption per 100,000 population was 5.7, while it was 22.7 in Sweden, and 14.6 in Norway


The impact of the Hague Adoption Convention has been to substantially reduce the number of intercountryadoptions in the USA and globally

table 1 intercountry adoptions in the usa from all foreign countries combined 1999 2011
Table 1Intercountry Adoptions in the USA from All Foreign Countries Combined, 1999-2011

Year: Number:

1999 15,719

2000 18,857 +

2001 19,647 +

2002 21,467 +

2003 21,654 +

2004 22,991 +

2005 22,734 (-)

2006 20,680 (-)

2007 19,608 (-)


2009 12,744 (-)

2010 11,058 (-)

2011 9,319 (-)

Total 1999 – 2011 233,934

About 2/3 = females

About 40% under 1 year old, about 35% 1-2 years old, about 25% = 3-17 years old.

Source: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Intercountry Adoption, Year 2011 Annual Report, available at (seen 6 April 2012).


Similar trends in reduction of inter-country adoptions have occurred around the world, not just in the United States

“The global number of intercountryadoption peaked in 2004 after a steady rise in annual numbers from the early 1990s. Since then, annual numbers have decreased to the point that by 2008 the total was lower than it had been in 2001 (see Figure 1), and by 2009 it was lower than it was in 1998 (see Table 2).” --Selman (2012)

“Global numbers [of intercountry adoptions] fell by 35 percent between 2004 and 2009.” – Selman (2012)


Figure 1: Trends in Intercountry Adoption to 23 Receiving States, 2001-2010

Peter Selman, Global Trends in Intercountry Adoption: 2001-2010, National Council for Adoption, Adoption Advocate, No. 44, February 2012. (Figure 1 & Tables 2-4 herein)


Table 2: Intercountry Adoptions to 23 Receiving Countries, 1998 to 2010, by Rank in 2004

peak years are highlighted in bold


Table 4: International Adoptions from Selected Eastern European States to 23 Receiving States, 2003-08, ranked by the number sent in 2003


IV. Conclusion

    • The Hague Convention was intended to facilitate and promote adoptions for parentless children in need of families. However, “in practice, this does not always occur.”(Selman 2012) The facts show that the well-intentioned Hague Adoption Convention actually depresses intercountry adoption. That needs to be fixed immediately.