As a former adoption professional as Executive Director of Joint Council on International Children’s Services and Program Manager at the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, I’ve been asked the question, what are the regulations regarding Haiti adoption, a great deal over the last seventeen years. The regulations regarding Haiti adoption have changed dramatically during those decades. It is important to understand the history of regulations regarding Haiti adoption and how they have evolved to what they are today in the island nation. 

Haiti’s History and Culture

The Republic of Haiti is half of the island known as Hispaniola. Hispaniola is made up of the Dominican Republic, on the Eastern part of the island, and Haiti, which occupies the Western part of Hispaniola. Haiti’s rich culture and history can be documented back to the fifteenth century when it was fully inhabited by the native people, Taino Amerindians. The island was then occupied by Christopher Columbus and the Spanish. When Christopher Columbus first landed in Haiti he built a fort and instructed 39 of his men to inhabit the island. The men pillaged the Haitian villages and were violent to the native people. The Tainos killed the men and burned the fort. Columbus returned a year later with 1,200 men to enlarge the original settlement and take over the island. Haiti remained under Spanish rule until the Haitian Revolution in 1791. The French begin to settle the Western part of the island in the 1600s and were followed by the British. The French, British, Spanish battle until the Revolution. In September 1697, the Treaty of Ryswick recognized France’s presence on the island and gives the country the Western part of Hispaniola, which eventually becomes known as Haiti. It also became France’s wealthiest and most lucrative occupied colony due to the cash crops of sugar and coffee. This wealth, sadly, came from the enslaved Africans who were forced to work the land. It also added to severe environmental degradation to the island nation. In 1791, the enslaved people started what was eventually known as the Haitian Revolution. Over a half-million, enslaved people revolted and eventually succeeded. This revolution led to Haiti’s independence from France and became the first black republic. 

Haiti is currently the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Over eighty-percent of Haitians live below the poverty level. Haiti has dealt with political violence, civil unrest, and natural disasters, which have all contributed to children living outside the love and protection of a forever family. In 2006, however, a democratically elected president was inaugurated and a parliament was instituted. The Institute du Bien Etre Social et de Recherches (IBESR) is the central authority that oversees Haiti adoptions and establishes regulations regarding Haiti adoptions. They are located in Port-au-Prince. 

Why Are There So Many Adoptions from Haiti?

Haiti is only 700 miles from Florida and the United States. It sits in a vulnerable location in the Caribbean, which has been hit with many natural disasters in recent decades. Haiti is often affected by hurricanes and earthquakes in the Caribbean. In 2010, a devastating, 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed over 300,000 Haitians. The ubiquitous poverty and poor infrastructure contributed to the high death toll.

The earthquake of 2010, other natural disasters, historical political unrest, poverty, and lack of social support systems have led to a high number of children living outside of permanent, loving, forever families. It is estimated that there are over one million orphans in Haiti. However, the definition of an orphan can mean that they have one living parent. It was last estimated that over 30,000 children live in institutional care in Haiti. These are staggering numbers considering that the island nation is made up of only ten million individuals. Further, of the 30,000 children who live in orphanages or creches. These creches are now regulated by the IBESR (Institut du Bien Etre Social et de Recherches). The IBESR estimates that at least eighty percent of the children living in these orphanages, or creches, have at least one living parent. 

So why are these children being placed in orphanages? In many instances, living biological parents in Haiti are placing their children in institutional care due to the country’s extreme poverty situation. The 2010 earthquake added to the poverty crisis. Tens of thousands of Haitians and their families were left with no shelter: homeless. Parents placed their children in the orphanages, or creches, because they believed their children would be well cared for, educated, fed, and ensured a better life. Many believed they could come back for their children once they secured shelter for their families. This was not necessarily the case. Many orphanages were closed due to inadequate care and conditions. Many children were lost in the process after the earthquake. Many were trafficked and kidnapped. Thankfully after the ratification of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, the process of adoption was regulated.

What Are the Current Regulations Regarding Haiti Adoptions? 

As of today, Haiti has endorsed the Hague Convention. They became a part of the Hague Convention in 2014. That means that the regulations regarding Haiti adoption must be done in accordance with the requirements of the Hague Adoption Convention. It is important to understand that Haiti, under the IBESR, has its own set of internal regulations regarding Haiti adoption. A 2013 adoption law made independent and private adoptions in the country illegal. That means that hopeful adoptive parents from the United States must work with only accredited adoption services providers approved to work in Haiti. Hopeful adoptive families must only work with IBESR licensed orphanages or creches which are given a “green light” status. This green light status means that the institution has met the minimal standards for quality care of the children. If an adoptive family is adopting relatives, then this regulation regarding Haiti adoption may not apply. Your adoption agency will share more. 

Other regulations regarding a Haiti adoption include a law that does not allow expectant parents or family members from choosing who will adopt their child unless the hopeful adoptive parents are related to the child. In regards to matching regulations regarding Haiti adoption, adoption agencies or other Hague accredited adoption service providers are not allowed to match hopeful adoptive parents with specific orphans. Further, adoption service providers can not disclose information about a child prior to the IBESR formally making the match. 

Some hopeful adoptive parents who have been living or working in Haiti, but are United States citizens, may seek to complete a domestic adoption. However, under the same 2013 adoption law referenced above, a prospective adoptive parent must have lived in Haiti for at least five consecutive years and have personal and professional ties to the nation. However, even if United States citizens can and do adopt domestically, the children can not immigrate to the United States as an adopted child until they meet intercountry adoption criteria. 

Who Is Eligible to Adopt Based on Regulations Regarding Haiti Adoption? 

After meeting the eligibility requirements imposed by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, you will also need to meet the Haiti adoption regulations set by your adoption agency and any other requirements set by United States law.

Hopeful adoptive parents must meet certain age requirements (these can be different for your adoption agency). At least one member of the couple looking to adopt must be at least thirty years old. If the hopeful adoptive parent is single, they must be 35 years old, or older. The adoptive parents must also be at least fourteen years older than the adopted child unless they are adopting a relative, then the age difference must be at least nine years.

Haiti currently allows for couples to adopt, whether married or living together. However, Haiti does not allow same-sex couples to adopt, even if legally married. Couples must be married or living together for at least five years before adopting in Haiti. 

The regulations regarding a Haiti adoption also include waiting for at least two years after adopting previously from Haiti. There are no income requirements, but most adoption agencies will have their own specific requirements to ensure the hopeful adoptive parents can meet the needs of the child they hope to adopt. 

Regulations regarding Haiti adoption also prohibit anyone convicted of a felony from adopting, as well as any adults who had their parental rights previously terminated. These regulations would also likely be requirements for your respective adoption agency and would be discussed in the adoption home study process. 

What Are the Regulations Regarding Haiti Adoption for Available Children? 

As shared above, since Haiti is a part of the Hague Adoption Convention, all intercountry adoptions have to abide by and meet the requirements set out in the convention. IBESR has the authority to determine if the child is an orphan and can be adopted internationally. Under the 2013 adoption law, children can not be deemed eligible for adoption just due to impoverished conditions. If a child is relinquished or abandoned the child can be deemed eligible for adoption by the IBESR.

Children under the age of sixteen are eligible for adoption. A child can not be placed for adoption, nor can consent for the adoption be given until the child is at least three months of age. Children who are eight years old or older must receive counseling by the IBESR and children over twelve years of age must consent to a plenary adoption in person. Regulations regarding Haiti adoption also includes siblings being placed with the same adoptive parents.

It is really important for prospective adoptive parents to understand that not all children in Haiti orphanages or creches are available for adoption. This is true in any country. Understanding that the child needs to be deemed eligible for adoption by the IBESR, according to the requirements set out in the Hague Adoption Convention, is important. Many humanitarian groups visit Haiti and believe that all of the children in the orphanages are available or eligible for adoption. This is just not true. Again, Haiti also has a practice of parents leaving their children in creches to ensure they receive proper nutrition, shelter, and education they can not provide at home. This does not mean the child is an orphan or eligible to be adopted due to living in institutional care.

What Are the Regulations Regarding Haiti Adoption After the Adoption is Finalized?

Once you identify a great adoption agency that is licensed to work in Haiti, you will begin the process of adoption. This will include the adoption home study and all of the other steps your adoption agency will explain. Once the adoption is finalized, you will have to complete post-adoption reports per the regulations regarding Haiti adoption. Haiti currently requires that adoptive families provide reports on their child adopted from Haiti for at least eight years. The family will complete potentially nine reports over that period of time. The reports are due at various stages of the child’s life. This includes after the child is home for six months, then after one year, and then only once a year for the next seven years. If the child turns eighteen before then, the reports cease. It is important that adoptive parents complete post-adoption reports regardless of the country from which they adopt. It ensures that the placing country continues to keep a positive adoption relationship with the United States and adoptive families from the United States. Complying ensures that the world’s most vulnerable children, those living outside the love and protection of a forever family, can have an opportunity to be adopted and find that permanency. 

The road to and journey of adoption is lifelong. Understanding what are the regulations regarding Haiti adoptions and the laws and history of this great country and their wonderful people is a great first step. Learning as much as you can about the adoption process in Haiti is important and by reading this article and others you are taking the first step of the most amazing journey of your life.

Jennifer Mellon has worked in the child welfare field for more than a decade, serving in varying capacities as the Executive Director and Chief Development Officer of Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS) and the Corporate Communications Program Manager for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI). Jennifer has served on the Board of the Campagna Center, which provides critical educational services to children and families in the DC Metro Area and on the Development Committee for the National Council for Adoption. She is the mom of three children and resides in Alexandria, Virginia.