Donations to organisations in other countries made by local intercountry adoption support organisations
Support organisations are not discouraged from fundraising activities or providing aid or donations to orphanages in other countries. However, it is fundamentally important that support organisations are not actually, or perceived to be, contributing to illicit or illegal adoption practices.
Support organisations should exercise careful judgement about donations, keeping in mind the risks associated with providing financial or material assistance. This means, support organisation should consider if the provision of aid or donations is appropriate, transparent, accountable and whether its use could be perceived by others for improper purposes. If in doubt, support organisations should consult their state or territory central authority for discussion or clarification.
Support for orphanages, adoption agencies and other child protection programs in developing countries often comes from foreign aid and donations. It is preferable that such donations are directed at building a national child protection system or adequate adoption services, which may be indirectly linked to intercountry adoption services. 1.
As stated in the Guide to Good Practice:
‘the challenge is to find the appropriate balance between the provision of development aid, contribution fees, or donations which help to build and maintain an effective child protection system, and the avoidance of difficult ethical and legal problems which may arise where the source of funding is closely related to the intercountry adoption process.’ 2.
Article 32 of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Convention) specifically prohibits the directors, administrators and employees of bodies involved in an adoption from receiving remuneration that is unreasonably high for services delivered.3 This is due to the inherent risk of malpractice in intercountry adoption to obtain financial gain. This is in addition to the general prohibition on any person deriving improper financial or other gain from an activity related to the intercountry adoption. 4
A number of support organisations in Australia currently provide support for individual children through child sponsorship programs or financial and material donations to orphanages and adoption authorities in other countries. Support organisations also provide a significant range of fundraising and other support. While these types of donations are nearly always given with the best of intentions, there are some risks that organisations need to consider.
The primary risk of donations is that it may contribute to improper financial gain or corruption. The prospect of donations and continuing support can increase the incentive for abuse such as the sale, abduction or traffic of children, or coercion or bribery of birth parents. For example, donations being given with the expectation that this will be reciprocated with referrals of children for adoption to Australia. Please refer to the factsheet “The Financial Aspects of Intercountry Adoption” for more information on this matter.
Donations and assistance can also create a situation of dependence, where orphanages or communities come to rely on donations to sustain their work and expect that support organisations will continue to provide substantial financial contributions. This expectation may create a belief that making children available for intercountry adoption will secure foreign income or profit in the future. This is not in the best interests of the child and creates a risk of illicit or illegal practices as detailed above.
Support organisations should be careful not to link specific adoptive parents to specific donations or create situations in which there is a real or perceived conflict of interest. Donations forwarded directly from the support organisation without reference to the source of the donation, for example the name of the donor or their circumstances, can help to prevent potential conflicts of interest for prospective adoptive parents. Where a prospective adoptive parent is involved in a support organisation, it is essential that they are not involved in, or hold responsibility for, forwarding donations to organisations in the country they wish to adopt from.
In most cases, financial and material donations demonstrate the commendable effort of support organisations to improve the lives of children in countries relevant to its members. However, a number of precautionary measures are recommended:
- Ensure any organisation to which a donation is made accounts for foreign donations and outlines how the money will be used.
- Determine the foreign exchange rate between Australian currency and the receiving country’s currency, and the real value of your donation. This will assist you to determine whether the financial contribution requested is proportionate and appropriate.
- Estimate the realistic costs of maintaining a comparable institution (based on the number of placements, other donations and any internal funding) and determine whether the money is being spent in accordance with information provided to you by the organisation.
- Consider providing donations in-kind, such as books, quilts, bicycles etc., rather than financial donations. Try to contribute to capacity building projects, such as leadership and community development, developing partnerships with other organisations, or training of childcare professionals, rather than large non-specific financial donations.
- Be wary of providing donations in any way that may be seen as linked to an expectation of children being referred to Australia for adoption.
- Prospective adoptive parents may offer to make donations on behalf of support organisations when they travel to another country, but should not be requested to do so by the support organisation. Be mindful of, and adhere to, any donation guidelines or restrictions that may exist in relation to specific intercountry adoption partner country arrangements in Australia.
- If in doubt about whether a particular donation is appropriate or not, please consult your relevant state or territory central authority.
1Guide to Good Practice, paragraph 227
2 Guide to Good Practice, paragraph 227
3Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in respect of Intercountry Adoption, Article 32(3)
4Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in respect of Intercountry Adoption, Article 32(1)