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Established Principles of International Adoption

International adoption is based on principles recognized by the international community that require the contracting States to consider the rights of the child without discrimination or distinction of any kind. Should a child be entrusted to a public or private institution, or a judicial authority, his or her interests must be the main concern. The contracting States are responsible for the child's survival and future, and children capable of discernment have the right to express their opinion and be heard.

The child: the focus of concerns

Most nations recognize that children have rights, and that individuals are responsible for enforcing these rights. The 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, in force in Canada since 1992, recognizes that children here and abroad have the following rights:

  • the right to a name;
  • the right to a nationality;
  • the right to be consulted or legally represented;
  • the right to respect as a person;
  • the right to food and shelter adapted to their needs;
  • the right to health care and social services;
  • the right to an education;
  • the right to play and take part in recreational activities;
  • the right to be protected.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, in Québec, the Civil Code of Québec and the Youth Protection Act recognize that children have other rights, such as the right to parents who take care of them; the right to protection, security and attention; the right to be informed, heard and consulted; and the right to know their origins.

Under the Hague Convention of May 29, 1993, applied in Québec since February 1, 2006, children:

  • have the right to grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding;
  • have the right to remain in the care of their family of origin.

Under the Convention, children have the right to expect that:

  • their adoption by people residing outside their country of origin is in their best interests and respects their fundamental rights;
  • measures are taken to prevent their abduction, sale, or traffic in any shape or form.

In matters of international adoption, the child is the focal point of the process and decisions that concern him or her. It is in this spirit that the SAI, in accordance with the law and its international commitments, deals with potential adoptive parents and cooperates with the authorities of the contracting States on a daily basis.

A social and legal child protection measure

The child, not the adoptive parents' desire to have a child, is the focal point of the process leading to adoption. International adoption is a social and legal measure for the protection of the child. The child cannot be the subject of an arrangement between individuals or be entrusted to unqualified intermediaries, or intermediaries whose practices or motives seem questionable. International adoption files must therefore be handled by competent child protection authorities.

A subsidiary placement measure

International adoption is a subsidiary placement measure. In other words, it is considered solely after competent authorities have determined that it is impossible to keep the child in his or her family environment, community or country.

A measure considered in the best interests of the child, while respecting his or her fundamental rights

Any measure intended to protect the child is governed by the best interests of the child and respect for his or her fundamental rights. The child's moral, intellectual, emotional and physical needs, age, health, personality, family environment and other aspects are thus considered. The child has the right to grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding, which promotes harmonious development of his or her personality. The child is also entitled to be informed and consulted about any life plan that concerns him or her, age and maturity permitting. 

A permanent placement solution

It is important to give the child a permanent solution so that he or she can live in a stable socioaffective environment that all children need to develop and grow.

The adoptable child

The authorities must declare a child legally adoptable before national adoption can be considered and, should that solution not be feasible, international adoption can be considered. A child's adoptability is determined by his or her background and the legal texts applicable in the State of origin.

Suitability to adopt a child

The adoptive family must qualify and be recognized as capable of meeting the moral, intellectual, emotional and physical needs of a child on a permanent basis, in keeping with the child's age, health, personality, and family and social environment. It is for this reason that the potential adoptive parent must undergo a psychosocial assessment.

Profit, abuse, trafficking and sale

The child must not be a source of material or other gain under any circumstances or for anyone. The abuse, trafficking and sale of children violate human rights and must be denounced and prevented. In terms of international adoption, abuse translates into undue pressure on biological mothers who find themselves in precarious situations forcing them to give up their children for adoption, adoptions arranged prior to the birth of a child, kidnappings, arrangements with surrogate mothers, and unethical practices by unscrupulous individuals in order to obtain a child.

"L'adoption doit être une rencontre entre l'enfant dans son besoin et les parents dans leur désir."      Service social international, Genève, 1999

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