The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption (HCICA) was established in the Netherlands in 1993 as part of an ongoing series of global meetings to standardize laws among participating countries.
The United States helped draft the HCICA and will sign the document on April 1, 2008, which means it will do adoptions only with Hague-compliant countries.
So if Guatemala has not reformed its system by that date, the U.S. will no longer approve adoptions from Guatemala.
The HCICA aims to protect children, biological and adoptive parents by having each country establish a national authority to oversee adoptions. The central authority accredits agencies and lawyers who process adoptions, and keeps track of children and fees associated with adoption.
It makes paramount the rights of children and biological mothers, and encourages adoption by biological family members and families from the country where the child is born.
The United States needed 15 years to sign HCICA because that's how long it took to standardize international adoption rules that had been state-regulated.
Guatemala, which signed the HCICA Jan. 1, 2008, has just established a central authority, and is in the process of promulgating new guidelines for adoptions. That process could take a long time, and that's why it's so difficult to predict the future of U.S. adoptions from Guatemala.