Sun | Jan 20, 2019

What does it mean to be a signatory to a Hague convention?

Published:Monday | February 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Sherry Ann McGregor

The recent report of plans to review the adoption laws and the procedure for adopting children in Jamaica is welcome news. There are many frustrated adopters who may consider restarting the process and still others who steered clear of pursuing their desire due to their perception that the process is tedious.

From the perspective of the Child Development Agency and the Adoption Board, the adoptions that are difficult are the ones that are arranged privately. In other words, although all adoptions must proceed through the Child Development Agency, rather than allowing the Child Development Agency to match an adopter with a child, many persons identify a child who they wish to adopt and then make the necessary application to the Child Development Agency. It is these cases, they say, that have the most hiccups.

Also high on the list of problematic adoptions are those in which the adopters wish to emigrate with the child. In the case of adopters from the United States of America (for example), one important criterion is the requirement that the child being adopted from Jamaica fits within the definition of 'orphan' as set out in the United States Immigration and Nationality Act. Under that extended definition of 'orphan', the child must either have no living parents, or a sole or surviving parent who is unable to care for that child and has irrevocably consented, in writing, for the child to be adopted.

Many Jamaican children who are available for adoption may not properly fit within the definition of orphan. However, if Jamaica was a signatory to The Hague Convention of May 29, 1993 on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention), potential adopters from the United States of America would not have to overcome that hurdle to adopt a child. Different considerations would apply, such as the fact that both of the child's parents could be alive at the time of the adoption. Provided that they are incapable of caring for the child, and irrevocably consent to the termination of their legal relationship with the child and to the child's emigration and adoption - the adoption may be granted.

Protect children, families

I have often questioned why Jamaica is not one of the contracting states to The Hague Convention. I would love to know the answer, since the convention is intended to protect "children and their families against the risks of illegal, irregular, premature or ill-prepared adoptions abroad." The convention also seeks to promote the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (Art. 21) and "to ensure that inter-country adoptions are made in the best interest of the child with respect for his or her fundamental rights. It also seeks to prevent the abduction, sale or traffic in children".

From my perspective, it would seem that the objectives of the convention are compatible with Jamaica's desire to secure our children's welfare - to prevent unlawful adoptions and human trafficking. From my experience, it is often the relatives of Jamaicans living in the diaspora who wish to adopt Jamaican children. I, therefore, ask whether those efforts could not be assisted if Jamaica became a signatory to the convention.

Sherry Ann McGregor is a partner and mediator in the firm of Nunes, Scholefield, DeLeon & Co. Please send your comments and questions to or on twitter @lawsofeve