Part 1: Intercountry Adoption

Adoption is a lengthy and complicated legal process, especially if the child to be adopted will come from a country different from that of the adopters or what is known as intercountry adoption. Done improperly, it will result in loss of time and money; at worst, it will make the adopted child ineligible to enter or immigrate to the adopters’ country, thus frustrating the purpose of the adoption.

This is especially true if the adopters are citizens or residents of the United States, which is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption or simply the Hague Convention. Under the Hague Convention, in which the Philippines is also a signatory, all adoptions involving citizens or residents of two countries must pass through each country’s Central Authority for intercountry adoption.

In the U.S. the Central Authority is the Department of State, while in the Philippines it is the Intercountry Adoption Board (ICAB). U.S. individuals or couples intending to adopt a child from the Philippines must first be found suitable to adopt by filing an application for determination of suitability with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once found suitable, an application for intercountry adoption may then be filed with the ICAB via an accredited adoption agency in the U.S.

Unlike other types of adoption, intercountry adoption requires compliance with the laws of two countries (of the adopter and adoptee) for a successful adoption. We have encountered cases of adoptions being filed by U.S. citizens and residents directly with Philippine courts only for the adopters to find out later on – after the decree of adoption is granted – that U.S. requirements have not been met and the child cannot be brought to the U.S.

It is, therefore, important for U.S. adopters intending to adopt a child from the Philippines via intercountry adoption to keep in mind that the application must be filed with the ICAB through an adoption agency in the U.S. that is accredited with the ICAB. The same rule is true for other nationalities whose country is also a signatory to the Hague Convention (i.e., they must apply through an ICAB-accredited adoption agency in their home country).

Once the ICAB receives the intercountry adoption application, it will proceed to determine the adopters’ eligibility to adopt under the Philippine Inter-Country Adoption Act of 1995 (Republic Act No. 8042, as amended). If found eligible, the ICAB will then match the adopters with a child free or available for intercountry adoption, unless the child to be adopted is a relative of the adopter in which case no matching is necessary.

For U.S. adopters, the child to be adopted must be found eligible as a Hague Convention adoptee to be able to immigrate to the U.S., before proceeding further after successful matching between the adopters and adoptee. For this purpose, the adopters must file an application with the USCIS to determine the eligibility of the child.

After the child is found by the USCIS as an eligible Hague Convention adoptee, the ICAB will give the adopter or adopters legal and physical custody of the child and the latter can then be brought to the U.S. where the adoption petition will be filed with the appropriate court to complete the intercountry adoption process.  Take note that the ICAB is not the one that will issue the adoption decree, but a court in the U.S. where the petition for adoption will be filed, which is generally the court of the place where the adopters reside.

As can be seen from the foregoing, intercountry adoption requires understanding and compliance with a mixed of laws from the country of the adopters and child to be adopted. Failure to strictly comply with these will be a costly mistake, not to mention the emotional toll it will exact if the adoption is not successful. Be sure to consult an attorney who is well versed with the process.

(Next: Who Can Adopt and Who May be Adopted?)

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Suggested tags: intercountry adoption, hague adoption, hague convention adoption, adopting from the philippines, intercountry adoption board, international adoption