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Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption

The international principles that govern intercountry adoption are set out in the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, an international treaty to safeguard children in intercountry adoptions.

The convention aims to ensure that intercountry adoption only occurs when it is in the best interests of the child. A guiding principle of the convention is that, whenever possible, a child should be raised by his or her birth family or extended family. If this is not possible, other forms of permanent family care in the child’s country of birth should be considered. Only after local solutions have been exhausted, should intercountry adoption be considered – and then only if it is in the child’s best interests.

The convention also focuses on the need for countries to work together to prevent the abduction, sale, or trafficking of children.

The convention entered into force in Australia in December 1998.

It is implemented in Australia by the Family Law Act 1975 and regulations. Links to these laws are available on the Intercountry adoption legislation page.

Australia is committed to upholding the principles and standards of the Hague Convention, regardless of whether the partner country has signed the convention. For information about programs, visit the Intercountry Adoption Australia website.

Protocol for responding to allegations of child trafficking in intercountry adoption

This protocol provides information and assistance to adoptive families and adoptees in circumstances where there are allegations or concerns about child trafficking, including:

  • within a country of origin
  • with the adoption of a child or children to Australia, or
  • specific concerns raised in individual cases.

The protocol is available below:

Cooperation between central authorities to develop a common approach to preventing and addressing illicit practices in intercountry adoption

Australia led a working group in early 2011 to develop cooperative measures to prevent illicit practices in intercountry adoption cases.

The following discussion paper was considered by all parties to the Hague Convention: