Haiti's new adoption rules aim to protect children

The Hague Adoption Convention took effect in Haiti this week after Haitian officials demonstrated their country has adopted legislation to follow the treaty's provisions.

By , Associated Press

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    A Haitian child skips with a rope at an orphanage outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti on December 3, 2012.
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Foreigners seeking to adopt a child from Haiti will now have better assurances the new family member wasn't trafficked.

The Hague Adoption Convention took effect in Haiti this week after Haitian officials demonstrated their country has adopted legislation to follow the treaty's provisions.

Under the pact's terms, prospective parents will be able to adopt only from adoption agencies certified by the Haitian government's social welfare agency. Prospective parents, meanwhile, are required to show they are capable of raising children born in other countries.

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The rules require that couples adopting children must have been married a minimum of five years, with one spouse at least 30-years-old. A single person seeking to adopt must be at least 35.

The measures are intended to ensure that any adopted child is a true orphan and will end up in a foreign country as a citizen as well as in a stable home.

Haiti has long allowed its children to be adopted by foreign parents, but lax laws and oversight left many children in Haiti susceptible to trafficking.

UNICEF recently estimated at least 2,000 children were smuggled out of Haiti in 2009.

The vulnerability of young Haitians was underscored shortly after the 2010 earthquake, when Baptist missionaries from the US tried to take 33 supposed orphans across the border into the Dominican Republic. Police stopped the Americans for lacking proper documents to take the kids, all of whom turned out to have living parents who had voluntarily handed them over to the missionaries.

In Haiti, an estimated 50,000 children live in orphanages, and many have been dropped off by parents who couldn't afford to take care of the youngsters.

Chuck Johnson, CEO of the National Council of Adoption, an advocacy group for domestic and international adoptions, said the new rules will improve the situation.

"It's a system that has more transparency. Parents seeking to adopt children from Haiti will now have reassurances that their child wasn't trafficked," he said.

The US, a signatory to the adoption treaty, announced last week that it will begin processing adoptions from Haiti filed on or after April 1.

The US added that there might be delays as the Haitian government's social welfare agency finalizes details on fees.

Arielle Jeanty Villedrouin, general director of the agency, could not be reached for comment Friday.

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