adoption · finland · multicultural families

International adoption in Finland, how does it work?

Congratulations, you decided to become an adoptive parent! Be ready to get buried into tons of information, paperwork, and bureaucracy. It’s part of the game and it will be worth it, I promise. I am writing this post in the hope of helping you – especially if you are not a Finnish-speaker – to start this long process in the easiest way possible.

The adoption journey in Finland is a sequence of three steps:

  1. the adoption counselling (adoptioneuvonta),
  2. the long wait,
  3. the gotcha trip & follow-up reports.

To get to the next step, you need to complete the previous. Let’s start from phase one.

The adoption counselling

By Finnish law, you need to become eligible for adoption. Such decision is taken by the national authority Valvira, operating under the Finnish government. The adoption counselling phase is provided free-of-charge by your municipality of residence and lasts for 1-1,5 year. The prospect adoptive family meets with a social worker for 8-10 times – including a home visit – so that she can assess if the family is an appropriate match for adoption. During the meetings, you’ll be asked about your motivation to adopt, your current family/financial/personal situation, how the extended family may react to the adoption, your moral values, the special needs you are ready to take care of, and so on. The social worker will write a report (home study) and send it to Valvira for a decision.
Who to call: contact the social services (sosiaali- ja terveyspalvelut) of your town.

The long wait

After few months, and maybe some additional information request from Valvira – you should get the final decision: you are allowed to adopt a child! It’s time to choose an adoption agency. There are only three authorised agencies in Finland: Save The Children, Interpedia, and City of Helsinki – the latter will terminate adoption-related activities in few months. The agencies have contacts in different countries, so your choice may depend on that. Contact the chosen country coordinator or the agency adoption supervisor, and get yourself in the waiting list. Each country has its own restrictions, guidelines, and waiting time, which may vary in time. It could be matter of months, as well as years. The wait will be painful, it’s a fact. My suggestion is to get to know other adoptive families – agencies are happy to share contact details and there’s plenty of Facebook groups – and go to adoption-related meetings and info sessions.
During the waiting phase, you’ll be asked for documents and papers all the time. Sometime they’ll ask to send the same information again and again, as it gets outdated during the long wait.
Who to call: contact the adoption agency of your choice.

The trip

It’s been so long, but your were matched to your child. Hooray! Time to leave and go meet her. Again, each country has its own rules and schedule. The trip usually takes few weeks – except for Kenya, which requires you to live there up to a year – and you can come back with your child in your arms. After the trip bureaucracy hits once again. You may need to register your child, get a new passport for her, ask for her Kela card, and so on. Most countries require you to send reports on how the child is doing, even for years afterwards. The social worker who followed you during the counselling phase will help writing the reports.
Who to call: report your return to the agency, then contact your counselling social worker.

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Good to know

Here’s a bunch of facts you need to know.

  • Any person who wishes to adopt must be at least 25 years old and at most 50.
  • Finnish law doesn’t require heterosexual couples to be married, but the country you wish to adopt from may. Same goes for single applicants, they are not accepted by all countries. Homosexual couples can adopt a child, but they need to be married.
  • If you get pregnant during the adoption process, it will automatically stop. If other big changes occur during the process, by law you need to communicate them to your social worker (i.e. change in work situation, moving to another town or house, divorce, death in the family) and they may affect the process.
  • As a permanent resident, you have the right to receive adoption counselling in Finnish or Swedish language. Your town may arrange it in English, but it’s not for granted.
  • You cannot adopt children older than your current ones. By Finnish law, there needs to be at least one year of gap between your adopted child and your youngest child. Most social workers strongly recommend two years of age gap.
  • Formally you need to select one country to adopt from. You cannot queue for more than one country at a time, but you may switch to another queue in the same agency if they allow it. Sometime a country may suspend adoptions for a while and you may even be obliged to do so.
  • The total costs of adoption are usually included between 10- and 20 000 euros. Kela reimburses around 3000 euros back after the child has been matched to your family.

I would like to thank Valvira for replying to some questions I had. If you liked this post, make sure to follow my blog, as I will write more about my experience with adoption and parenting an adopted child. Good luck in your adoption journey!

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