What is the Role of a Central Authority in a Hague Convention Country?

central authority

Nicole Skellenger, JD, is pictured with members of IBESR, Haiti’s Central Authority.

Prospective adoptive parents have a lot of questions. As an agency, we enjoy answering each and every one.

How do we know our adoption will be ethical?

What steps are in place to ensure my child is adoptable?

How often do you travel to the countries?  

These questions are even more common when the family is interested in adopting from a country that has recently shut down to international adoptions or where the adoption horror stories are not hard to find. One of these countries is Haiti.

Members of our MLJ Adoptions’ team, including our Executive Director recently traveled to Port au Prince, Haiti to meet with Haitian government officials, tour crèches, provide training to our in country staff and meet with U.S. embassy officials. Traveling to countries where adoption programs exist, is an important part of what we do as an adoption agency. Our Haiti trip, included a meeting with representatives of IBESR (Institut du Bien-Etre Social et de recherches), Haiti’s Central Authority since becoming signatory to the Hague Convention.

All countries signatory to the Hague Adoption Convention must establish a Central Authority whose purpose is to be the authoritative source of information and point of contact during the adoption process. The Central Authority essentially oversees the adoption process, including deeming children adoptable and matching those children with adoptive families. So what does this entail? IBESR ensures all children who are adopted are relinquished in an ethical manner and one that is compliant with Haiti’s adoption laws. IBESR ensures biological parents are fully advised as to what relinquishment and adoption mean. This is done through meetings and education conducted by IBESR and once completed, the biological parents appear in Court and provide their consent to the adoption in the presence of a Judge. The presiding Judge ensures that the biological parents understand fully what relinquishing their child means. For children with no parents, for instance abandoned children or children with deceased parents, IBESR follows a legal process to declare that child legally abandoned and a ward of the state.

These same processes and protections exist in Burkina Faso as well, through its Central Authority, The Ministry of Social Affairs and National Solidarity, Office of Placements and Adoptions. Legal processes are in place in Burkina Faso that ensure relinquishing biological parents fully understand their actions and results of these actions when they surrender a child. For children who are abandoned or parents are deceased or unknown, a process exists through the Courts and Prosecutor’s office where the child is declared abandoned and a ward of the state. Just as in Haiti, it is Burkina Faso’s Central Authority who matches children with prospective adoptive parents. For families looking to adopt from Africa, Burkina Faso offers a Hague adoption option and an ethical adoption process.

The point of the Central Authority in Hague countries is to ensure that children who are adopted are properly and legally relinquished or declared abandoned, ensuring an ethical and transparent adoption process for the child and adoptive families. Working with a Central Authority removes orphanages or other third parties from the process to ensure no undue influence has occurred to place the child for adoption. As a result, adoption agencies do not work directly with orphanages or crèches in these two countries. This Central Authority not only processes paperwork for these children in need, but further matches these children with adoptive parents’ dossiers. In doing so, the Central Authority essentially ensures that adoptive parents do not “pre-select” children.

Countries signatory to the Hague Convention such as Haiti and Burkina Faso, thus offer an adoption process that is highly regulated and principled to ensure the best interests of children are served and which in doing so provide protections and assurances to adoptive parents that their adoption processes will be ethical as well as transparent.  Something all prospective adoptive parents are looking for.

For more information on adopting from Burkina Faso or adopting from Haiti, please contact us.

Sonja Brown works as the International Program Director for MLJ Adoptions’ programs in Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti and Samoa. Sonja is also proud to work directly with our Individualized Country Program families who are adopting from countries where no adoption service providers currently operate.