How I came to appreciate the Finnish adoption system

If you met me during our adoption process, you surely heard me complaining of the long wait. Our home study took almost two years to be approved and another year passed before we could hold our son. The process in India was unprecedentedly fast, so we even felt lucky our wait has taken only three years. I recall I used to watch documentaries or follow accounts about people in US who adopted internationally and usually everything went much faster. I felt so envious. I blamed the Finnish system, why were they working so slow, why would they make people wait so long? Why were they rules so strict?

After placement, I could calm down. My focus was not on the wait anymore. I started learning about trauma, as well as worrying details of the US adoption process. Really quickly, I came to appreciate the Finnish system and its rigidity, and I want to tell you why you should as well.

Only two agencies

Finland has only two authorised adoption agencies serving the whole country (used to be three, one is soon closing). This doesn’t play well for adoptive parents, as there is no competition to shorten waiting times. However, when adoption doesn’t need a business model, the risk of human trafficking is minimal. Agencies have direct contact with the children’s homes they collaborate with, in all countries which allow it. Finnish social workers regularly visit their facilities and make sure standards of care are appropriate and nothing is fishy. This means there are less children available for adoption and waiting time generally increases. It also means there is little to no pressure to – excuse me the awful term – deliver. In the US there’s an estimated 3000 adoption agencies. Even if you put the figure in proportion with the population, it’s a 100 times bigger number.

adoption system mid image.png

You cannot choose your adopted child

I heard many stories of US parents who picked their child after seeing their picture in some sort of catalogue. This is unheard of in Finland. It’s illegal to choose a specific child to adopt. You simply have to follow the process, express your limitations on the child’s special needs, and you have the last word when you get a referral. I find this fair for two reason. First, this is adoption, not freaking online shopping. The idea of choosing your child through a gallery of pictures makes me sick. I don’t blame adoptive parents, I blame whoever designed the process and policy-makers who allow it. Second, this regulation again helps preventing human trafficking and exploitation of people in developing countries.

If you get pregnant, you’re out

This was the rule which worried me the most during the wait. I was terrified that the pill would fail me during the process. We were told that if I would get pregnant at any time during the process, it would be automatically stopped. I even met people it occurred to. Again, I didn’t fully understand why. Now I do. The months after placement are critical and extremely stressful. I could not think of having done this with a young baby in the mix or being pregnant. It’s not fair towards the baby, nor towards the adopted child. I remember reading this article not long ago. I appreciate that this mother came forward with her painful story, but at the same time I couldn’t help but thinking, how on earth was this family allowed to adopt a baby with another one on the way?

Strict age restrictions

Another rule which sent me nuts was the following: you are not allowed to adopt a child older than the children you already have. The adopted child must be at least one year younger than your youngest child. I know for sure US has no such limitation. I’ve seen families adopt kids of any age, at any point. We were not even allowed to start the screening process until our daughter turned one. This is another rule I understood later. First, having two children close in age makes it harder for families, especially if they are small. This limitation tries to prevent any complication, given that any adoption brings issues per se. In addition, Finland is strict about adoption of siblings. They require high standards to allow it, unlike US, where I witnessed families adopt a batch of non-related kids at a time. What is it, Black Friday? For love’s sake.

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Charity not appreciated

When we approached adoption without having fertility issues, we were looked at with suspicion. We were asked several times why, and specifically told that charity was not a good reason to adopt. The social worker explained that the danger of a saviour syndrome, is that parents would demand gratitude from the adopted child. I know religious reasons are a big motivator for adoption in the US. In the past weeks, I heard many adoptees come forward and lament how they were told many times to just shut up and be grateful. During the screening, I felt this prejudice was unnecessary. Not anymore.

I’m not hear claiming the Finnish system for international adoptions is perfect. I just want to tell how it’s different from many others and, in my personal view, safer and better for all parts involved. I think adoption is wonderful, but it’s also huge. Such an important thing needs to be handled with all care possibile, keeping in mind it should be centred on the well-being of children. Our internationally adopted children suffer the worst imaginable traumas, including being removed from their birth culture and place. Is some waiting and a careful screening for us prospect parents too much to ask?

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4 thoughts on “How I came to appreciate the Finnish adoption system

  1. It’s really interesting to hear how adoption is done in other countries. Am from the UK, a single adopter of ten years now. My lads are teens. I think Finland is getting things right in some ways, but the wait seems universal.
    Hope you had a good Christmas x

    Liked by 1 person

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