Local legal practitioners welcome information on inter-country adoption

Georgetown, GINA, July 19, 2016

Local legal practitioners benefitted from a greater understanding of inter-country adoption at the recently concluded Regional Hague Conference that was held from July 13 to July 15 at the Pegasus Hotel, Georgetown.

The legal luminaries were particularly interested in the adoption process involving the United States (US). Valerie Barlow, representative of the Office of Children’s Issues of the US State Department presented an overview of the Hague Adoption Convention.

“It has helped to provide greater security, predictability and transparency for all involved in inter-country adoption,” Barlow said of the Convention.

The convention is an important tool to support inter-country adoption since it establishes safeguards with the goal of protecting the best interests of children. Barlow’s presentation focused on the safeguards and benefits of the convention. Barlow’s office is the central authority for the Hague Convention.

President of the Guyana Bar Association, Gem Sanford-Johnson asked Barlow about the criteria for adoption, considering Guyana is not a signatory to the Hague Child Adoption Convention.

Barlow pointed out that the Universal Accreditation Act (UAA) that came into effect in July 2014 in the US does not differentiate countries that are a part of the Convention. “That act stated that all inter-country adoptions whether with a convention country or a country that was not party to the convention had to be completed by an accredited ASP (Adoption Service Provider),” Barlow explained.

Inter-country adoption is relatively new in Guyana. The cost of such an adoption was also an issue that was raised with Barlow. Local attorney-at-law, Emily Dodson highlighted the expensive nature of some inter-country adoptions and sought clarification as to why this was so.

Valerie Barlow, US Representative at the Office of Children’s Issues, US State Department (right)

Valerie Barlow, US Representative at the Office of Children’s Issues, US State Department (right)

Acknowledging that adoptions can become expensive, Barlow explained that there was a need for a clearer exchange of information between countries. “I think that the answer in all of these cases is clear information about what the expectations are, both for the US and for the country of origin, and meeting with competent authority representatives and getting clear information from both parties so we both know what we expect and we minimise the cost for the adoptive parents,” Barlow pointed out.

Barlow told Attorney-at-Law Dodson that costs incurred are often “either immigration reasons or legal reasons”. These reasons are usually laws or regulations of the origin state, she noted. “With regard to the actual adoption process, it’s the same which means that the family must have a home study that has been completed by an accredited adoption service provider and from there…there are some slight differences in the immigration process, but the actual inter- country adoption process is the same since we passed the UAA,” Barlow explained.

It is usually relative adoptions that are the most expensive, Barlow noted. The US has been discussing ways in which “to make adoptions a little less demanding in the cases of relative adoptions,” Barlow added.

Guyana’s revised Adoption Act of 2009 provides for adoption by non-Guyanese and non-resident Guyanese. Previously, only resident Guyanese were allowed to adopt.

The Child Care Protection Agency facilitates adoptions through the Adoption Board. In 2014, there were more than 60 inter-country adoption cases. There were 48 adoptions by non-resident Guyanese and 14 by non-Guyanese.

Guyana is exploring the possibilities of signing on to several of the Conventions. The critical importance of these conventions and the necessity of their importance were acknowledged by Supreme Court Judge, Roxanne George.