Adopting a child is a way of having a family if you are unable to get pregnant. Some people choose to adopt instead of having biological children. Adopting a child creates a radical change in the adoptive parents' lives. It is most common to adopt a child from abroad. The international adoption process consists of various stages and usually takes several years.
Most adoptive children are adopted by their new parents between the age of six months and six years.
Many of them were born prematurely, and may be smaller than Swedish children of the same age. Although it still happens that adoptive children are undernourished, this is far less common than in the past.
At some stage, all adoptive children have experienced losing their biological parents and leaving their native culture. Some have experienced several separations and traumas. Some may have difficulty adjusting to life in their new country, especially if they arrived slightly older. All of this places high demands on you as a parent.
Time and cost of adoption
If you are considering adopting, contact one of the adoption agencies approved by the Swedish Intercountry Adoptions Authority (MIA). MIA provides an up-to-date list of these agencies. It is a god idea to join several agencies as soon as possible, as there is usually a waiting list for submitting applications.
International adoption usually takes several years. The process may be shorter if the adoptive parents are prepared to adopt two siblings, a slightly older child or one with an illness or disability. In most cases, Sweden has good resources for treating children with special needs, for instance with cleft lip and palate, hip disorders or treatable heart conditions.
The adoption process is not only lengthy but also relatively costly. The average cost is roughly SEK 200,000. This includes fees for the adoption agencies in Sweden and the country of origin and the travel costs when bringing the child home. A person adopting a child from abroad can apply to the Social Insurance Agency for an allowance of approximately SEK 40,000 to contribute to the costs.
The adoptive parents gain legal custody of the child. An adoption can never be voided.
Who is allowed to adopt?
• You must be at least 25 years of age in order to adopt a child (an exception applies if a person gets married and wants to adopt their spouse's Swedish child or children). There is no upper age limit, but the National Board of Health and Welfare recommends applying to adopt before the age of 42.
• Some countries of origin may approve single persons for adoption. If you are living with a partner, you must be married. Common law spouses are generally not approved. Although same sex couples are legally entitled to adopt, they currently have a low chance of being approved by the relevant authorities in the country of origin.
• You (or you and your partner) must pass an initial evaluation carried out at the beginning of the adoption process. The evaluation process includes being interviewed by a social welfare officer in your municipality. Among other things, you must prove that you are financially stable and in good health. It is regarded as important that you have a mature attitude to children, a solid social network and support from family and/or friends. If you are single, it is especially important to meet all the criteria.
The adoption process
The process for international adoption is usually as follows:
• Suitability assessment. You (and your partner) apply to the social services in your municipality, who refer you to a pre-adoption course. If you meet the basic requirements for adopting, you will be referred for a personal interview with a social welfare officer.
• Adoption application. After you have been approved by the social welfare board, your adoption agency sends an adoption application to the chosen country of origin. You cannot choose your adoptive child, but you can choose the country of origin and the child's approximate age.
• Approval in the country of origin. The authorities in the child's country of origin select and approve adoptive parents based on the applications they receive. Each country has its own laws and requirements regarding adoption.
• Match notification. You are notified about the child you have been matched with.
• Approval from the social welfare board. If you accept the child you have been matched with, the social welfare board must approve the adoption.
• Travel notification. If the social welfare board gives its approval, the adoption agency will notify you of when you can pick up your child.
• Adoption decision. The final decision is made either in the country of origin or by a Swedish district court.
Bringing the child home to Sweden
At last your child is in its new home and you have a little family – or perhaps a larger family.
But first various formalities need to be taken care of. The child must be registered with various Swedish authorities, for example to receive medical care and child allowance.
Contact your local paediatric centre to arrange for medical examinations and vaccinations and get other necessary advice and assistance. The initial period can be challenging. The child will have a great need for security since everything will be completely new, not just the environment but also the people. The child may be anxious, aggressive or fretful to begin with. But things usually work out well if it receives plenty of love in a secure environment. Give it time.
Don't hesitate to ask for support and advice from other adoptive parents, your paediatric centre or the social services.
There are also plenty of good books you can read about adoption.