EurAdopt participated in the International Forum on Inter-country Adoption and Global Surrogacy (The Hague, Netherlands, August 11th – 14th, 2014)

Last Updated: Monday, 08 December 2014 Published: Monday, 08 December 2014

The Forum (http://www.iss.nl/adoption_surrogacy), organized by the International Institute for Social Studies at the University of Rotterdam,

was held with the aim of promoting a discussion on the implementation of the Hague Convention and explore the possibility for the drafting of a new convention on Global Surrogacy. Outcomes of the forum are expected to be addressed at the next meeting of the Special Commission on the practical operation of the 1993 Hague Intercountry Adoption convention, to be held in June 2015.

More than 100 participants gathered at ISS for the Forum. Participants represented mainly the research and academia community, but also other groups were present, like accredited bodies and agencies, central authorities (Malta, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Netherlands), activists, and adoptees’ associations. A delegation from the Hague Conference was also present. 

During the Forum participation and discussion were strongly promoted. Very few frontal presentations (only three plenary presentations) with most of the discussions taking place within relatively small working groups in different thematic areas. These included:

 

1. HCIA Implementation and the Best Interests of the Child: framing of children and childhood within the convention; best practices and country case studies; the subsidiarity principle; family support interventions and prevention of institutionalization; use of other conventions for situations not covered under the HCIA; trends to adopt children with special needs and best practices. 

2. Intercountry Adoption, Countries of Origin, and Biological Families: first parents/biological parents’ perspectives; orphan care and foreign aid; open adoptions; adoptions by foreign/dual nationals and relatives living abroad.

3. Intercountry Adoption Agencies and the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption: evaluation of agency regulation-strengths and weaknesses including financial transparency; use of communication technologies in the adoption process, both pre- and post-adoption; selection and preparation of prospective adoptive parents, including management of expectations.

4. Force, Fraud, Coercion: grounding concepts in human trafficking and their application to problems in intercountry adoption and global surrogacy; current issues of human trafficking dynamics in intercountry adoption and/or the emerging global surrogacy practice; child abduction into adoption; similarities and differences between ICA FFC and global surrogacy; the concept of exploitation of poor women/surrogates versus opportunity for poor women/surrogates; financial aspects of intercountry adoption and global surrogacy.

5. Global Surrogacy Practices: women’s experiences as surrogates; impacts of race, class, gender and power on their decisions, health outcomes, human rights, and well-being; experiences of and outcomes for resulting children, intended parents and egg providers in surrogacy arrangements; understanding the range of surrogacy regulations and practices in different jurisdictions (including “best practices” and “most problematic practices”); similarities to, differences with, and lessons learned from intercountry adoption.

 

Main points from the discussions

 The Forum has represented an important moment for the implementation of the Hague Convention because it has confirmed, after 20 years of implementation, the positive effects that the Convention has introduced in the system of intercountry adoptions (ICAs). There is still space for significant improvements, but there is a general consensus among the participants, regardless of their background, that the Convention has improved significantly the quality of the adoptions that it has regulated.

On the other side, the consensus is also strong on recognizing the fact that global ICAs are in a declining trend in terms of numbers. There is no single explanation for this phenomenon, but it is clear that decline is happening and no projections for the future seem to allow a significant change in this behavior. Much of the reason for this decline, at global level, is considered to be due to the overall improvements of the child protection systems in the countries of origin of children. A consequence of this is that the ICAs today involve more and more children with special needs.

The decline in the number of ICAs poses severe concerns for the future existence of accredited bodies and agencies. Some of these concerns also reflect themselves on the overall ICA system: a reduction in the number of ICAs might risk to trigger (or to reinforce) the aggressive strategies of some agencies that feel threatened by the reduction of income. The question raises weather there are sufficient controls and enforcement instruments both at national and international level in order to keep this potential risk under control. The ICAs community has produced along the years a remarkable body of knowledge on what are good adoptions, where good means adoptions that are real instruments of child protection. Guidelines, reports, ethical rules, best and worst practices have been widely disseminated. It is not the knowledge that is missing, but its generalized translation into practice. How can best practices be somehow “enforced” in the system, especially when the system risks to be driven by market rules? At present, most controls in the system are the duty of Central Authorities (CAs) and it is therefore their capacity (or lack of) that will have a crucial role in reducing (or not) this risk.

Whatever the reason for the decline and whatever the risks that will follow from it, some points have emerged as important in defining the future of Accredited Bodies:

 

1. The trend in the number of special needs in ICAs is posing several challenges to countries of origin and receiving countries. It is important that accredited bodies gain enough experience on the matter (preparation of parents, detailed case studies, post-adoption services). We could say: “special accredited bodies for children with special needs”.

2. Even if ICAs should finish today, there would be still a huge number of adoptees in the world that we – the society – have to take care of. The future is post-adoption services.

 

Other topics that were discussed extensively in the working groups are:

- The principle of subsidiarity and its implementation. Even if the principle, as stated by the convention, is clear, its implementation remains uncertain. How do we really achieve that ICAs are the last resort? What has to be done before ICAs? Is there need for some more detailed instruments to guide the child protection system – mainly the one in countries of origin – in order to be sure that we recur to ICAs only when all other relevant solution have failed?  

- What is the best interest of the child? 

- Is the framing of child within the convention adequate to the current level of understanding on ICAs?

- Are the rights of biological parents correctly taken into consideration within the Convention?

A discussion on Global Surrogacy and its potential link with ICAs also took place. The starting point of the discussion being that global surrogacy practices are widely diffused and there are important concerns, among others, about the exploitation of the persons involved (the child, the women involved in the gestation). There is no international regulation at present and few national laws. It is currently being evaluated whether a new international Convention could possibly regulate the matter avoiding bad practices and exploitation, in the same way the ’93 Hague Convention has positively regulated the field of ICAs. The ethical issues involved in surrogacy, however, along with a general perspective from a human rights point of view, offer a very different scenario from the one where ICAs were happening before 1993. Surrogacy is a response to a desire (the one of the couple to be parent), whereas ICA is a response to a human right (the one of the child to live in a family). Despite these profound differences, some of the knowledge gained in the ICAs field could be useful in the surrogacy sector, in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes. For example all we know about the importance for any individual to know about his/her origins at any time in life, a concept that is clearly stated in the ’93 Convention, should be properly reflected in any normative instrument the international community might decide to adopt on global surrogacy. It is therefore important that the surrogacy community learns from the ICA experience.

There is another possible link between ICA and global surrogacy and it is related to the fact that some ICA agencies and accredited bodies might consider to shift their activities towards global surrogacy as a strategy to compensate the decreased activity in ICA. This seems to be a realistic possibility more in the US context than in Europe, but it is a dynamics that should be monitored carefully. 

Euradopt has been cited several times as an example of good standards placed above the minimum standards of quality imposed by the Hague Convention. This confirms the good reputation Euradopt has in the research community and at HCCH level.

This suggests that there could be an opportunity for Euradopt to increase its political impact with a stronger lobbying activity at HCCH and EU level, starting from the wide experience that Euradopt represents and with the aim of achieving a more generalized agreement on the Euradopt standards. 

The next meeting of the Special Commission (June 2015) is probably a good opportunity in this sense. It could be worth identifying a political objective to be achieved at the meeting and prepare a strategy to approach the event. 

(based on the report of Paolo Palmerini (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) who represented Euradopt at the Forum)

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