In its guidelines, the Finnish Adoption Board highlights points that have emerged in the permission process and that should be given particular attention. The guidelines are updated as necessary and should thus be reviewed regularly.
General supervision of adoption counselling falls within the purview of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The Ministry has published a guide for adoption counselling service providers (pdf), which should be used in preparing reports on home circumstances.
1. Medical statements
A physician’s certificate (T certificate) must always be appended to the application. It used to be sufficient for an applicant to show the T certificate to the social worker providing the adoption counselling, but now T certificates must be submitted to the Adoption Board. The T certificate must be submitted in its entirety, i.e. showing all the information entered on it. The T certificate must not be more than one year old when it is received by the Board. The prospective adopter must countersign the T certificate to confirm its content.
If the prospective adopter has a chronic illness or other condition or injury that restricts his/her capability for caring for a child, or if his/her prognosis is poor, the applicant must submit a medical statement from a specialist concerning his/her state of health to the Adoption Board.
The medical statement from a specialist should address at least the following issues:
How does your state of health affect your functional capacity?
What is your general condition and how is your functional capacity at the moment? Does your illness cause symptoms, and if so, what?
Are you on medication for your illness?
Overall evaluation by the physician of how your health, your symptoms and any associated diseases are likely to develop in the future. How is your illness likely to affect your ability to bring up the adopted child and care for him/her until adulthood?
Does your illness affect your life expectancy, and if so, how?
Adding an adopted child to a family may be a highly stressful and resource-intensive period in a person’s life. How would your illness react to severe stress? How does the physician consider that any eventual crisis stemming from the arrival of an adopted child might affect your health?
The specialist’s statement to be submitted to the Adoption Board must be no more than 6 months old when received by the Board. In the statement, the specialist must specifically evaluate how the prospective adopter’s illness has a bearing on adopted parenthood. If the physician has not made such an evaluation, the Board will have to ask for a further clarification.
The Adoption Board evaluates the health of the prospective adopter vis-à-vis the best interests of the adoptee. It is important for prospective adopters to be of sound mind and body so as to be able to provide the adopted child with good care and upbringing until adulthood. The best interests of the child are always paramount in the deliberations of the Adoption Board, and the health of the applicant is considered on a case-by-case basis.
2. Statements from social services
Section 24(3) of the Adoption Act stipulates that if the adoption counselling is provided by an adoption agency, it shall obtain a statement of the circumstances of the child and the prospective adopter(s) from the social welfare authority of their municipality of habitual residence. Such a statement may basically not be more than one year old when received by the Adoption Board.
A recent statement from the municipal social welfare authority is also required when applying for an extension to a permission to adopt.
3. Police record
During adoption counselling, the prospective adopters’ criminal record, police record and details on domestic alerts, if any, must be checked. Such a check may not be more than one year old when the application is received by the Adoption Board.
If the adoption counselling is provided by a municipal social welfare authority, they are entitled to obtain police record details directly pursuant to section 20 of the Act on the Status and Rights of Social Welfare Clients (812/2000).
If the adoption counselling is provided by an adoption agency (in practice, this would be Save the Children Finland), the agency must request the social welfare authority in the prospective adopters’ municipality of residence to check the police records in connection with requesting a statement on the prospective adopter’s circumstances under section 24 of the Adoption Act (22/2012).
An extract from the prospective adopters’ police records must not be submitted to the Adoption Board as is. It is sufficient to indicate in the report on home circumstances that the police records check has been performed. If there are any entries in the prospective adopter’s police record that are likely to have a bearing on adopted parenthood, then those entries must be detailed in the report on home circumstances. Otherwise, the report on home circumstances only has to indicate that the prospective adopter’s police record has been checked and give the date when the check was performed. The evaluation of whether any entry in the prospective adopter’s police record might have a bearing on adopted parenthood shall be made by the municipal social welfare authority.
Every report on home circumstances must mention that the police record and information on domestic alerts, if any, have been checked. If this mention is missing, the Adoption Board will have to request a further clarification.
4. Adoptions without a service provider
Basically, a person seeking to adopt a child from abroad must request not only adoption counselling but also intercountry adoption services. The relevant service providers in Finland are Interpedia, Save the Children Finland and City of Helsinki Social Services and Health Care (the latter is not accepting new clients).
In exceptional cases, it is possible to adopt a child from abroad not using a service provider, but permission from the Adoption Board must be applied for and received also for these ‘independent adoptions’.
Permission for intercountry adoption without a service provider may be granted mainly in cases where the adoptee is a blood relative of the prospective adopter. In such cases, it must always first be established that it is not possible to affect the adoption through a service provider.
For adoptions without a service provider, the Finnish Adoption Board must consider whether the proposed adoption is in the best interests of the child. In accordance with the subsidiarity principle, the Adoption Board must consider whether it would be possible for the proposed adoptee to be raised in his/her country of origin, either by his/her own family or with other close relatives, for instance, instead of being adopted to another country. Certain international conventions endorse this principle. Under Article 21 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 4 of The Hague Adoption Convention, the subsidiarity principle must be observed in intercountry adoptions. What this means is that intercountry adoption can only be considered as an option after it has been sufficiently investigated whether the child in question could be adopted or placed with a foster family or otherwise cared for in the country of origin.
For the Finnish Adoption Board to process an application for an adoption without a service provider, it must be possible for the Board to establish with sufficient certainty that intercountry adoption is in the child’s best interests and that the child is adoptable pursuant to international conventions. Because the prospective adopter has no adoption service provider in such a case, the prospective adopter himself/herself is responsible and liable for obtaining any and all documents required and for having them translated, legalised, etc. The Adoption Board may also require that the family relationship be proven with a DNA test. The prospective adopter shall be liable for the costs of any DNA tests or other examinations.
The documents that may be required by the Finnish Adoption Board include but are not limited to the following:
documentary evidence of the relationship between prospective adopter and adoptee (blood relative)
birth certificate of the child
report from the social welfare authorities in the child’s country of origin explaining why the child cannot remain with his/her biological family
report from the social welfare authorities in the child’s country of origin affirming that the child’s biological parents have received adoption counselling and understand what adoption means
Note: Permission to adopt without a service provider does not in itself guarantee that the child will be admitted to Finland. If neither of the applicants is a Finnish citizen, then the adopted child cannot be given Finnish citizenship (and therefore not a Finnish passport, either). In that case, a residence permit for the child must be applied for, and this matter will be decided by the Finnish Immigration Service as per the Aliens Act (301/2004). In such cases, the prospective adopters should be informed at adoption counselling that they must eventually apply for a residence permit for the child.