The regulation of independent adoptions is strict. When a person living in Finland wants to adopt from abroad, they must always apply for permission from the adoption board. The goal is to prevent the risks of independent adoptions, such as trafficking of children.
A person adopting from abroad must always request the international adoption service in addition to adoption counselling. The service providers are the Department of Social Services and Health Care of the City of Helsinki, Save the Children and Interpedia ry.
In exceptional cases, the child can be adopted from abroad without using a service provider. Permission must also be obtained for these independent adoptions from the adoption board.
Permission for an international adoption without a service provider can usually be granted when the child is a close relative of the prospective adopter or of his or her spouse. In these cases it must first be ensured that the adoption cannot be carried out through a service provider.
When the adoption is carried out without using a service provider, the adoption board must consider whether the planned adoption serves the best interests of the child. According to the principle of subsidiarity, the adoption board must consider whether the child could live in his or her country of origin instead of the adoption either with his or her own family or with other possible immediate relatives. Some international agreements also support this practice. According to Section 21 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and Section 4 of the Hague Adoption Convention the principle of subsidiarity must be followed in international adoptions. This means that international adoption can only be considered if there has been a sufficient amount of research into whether the child could be placed in foster care or cared for in another way in his or her own country.
When the adoption board handles an application for adoption without using a service provider, it must ensure that the adoption serves the best interests of the child and that the child is free to be adopted in accordance with international agreements. Because the applicant does not have an adoption service provider, the applicant must take care of acquiring necessary documents, having them translated, legalised, etc. The adoption board can also ask for close family relationships to be verified with a DNA test. The applicant is responsible for the charges incurred by any DNA testing etc.
The board can also ask for the following documents:
document proving family relationship (immediate family)
child’s birth certificate
statement by the social welfare officials in the child’s country of origin on why the child cannot live with his or her biological family
statement by the social welfare officials in the child’s country of origin that the parents have been given information about adoption and that they understand what adoption means
Documents must be legalised.
Legalisation of documents
In order for a document compiled abroad to be legal in Finland, it must be legalised. Legalisation of a document is a procedure concerning the legal protection of the parties and the reliability of the administration which ensures that the party that issued the document has the right to issue such document. It also ensures that the document has the correct content and it is valid in the said country.
Legalisation is done in two different ways depending on whether said country has joined the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents in 1961 (Apostille Convention). If the document has been issued in an apostille country, the validity of the document is verified with an apostille provided by a competent authority in the country. The signatures on the document, the position of the signatory, and the seal or stamp are verified with the apostille. In countries outside the Apostille Convention the document is legalised by the ministry of foreign affairs in the issuing country after which the competent Finnish embassy or embassy of another Nordic country legalises the document by attaching a certificate stating the competence of the official in the above mentioned ministry of foreign affairs to issue the certificate.
If the child is adopted from abroad without a permission granted by the board, the adoption cannot be deemed legal in Finland.
The Adoption Act of 2012 tightened the conditions for adoption. The purpose is to prevent risks associated with independent adoptions, such as child trafficking. The aim is also to ensure that a child actually requires international adoption. The child's best interest is secured most effectively through an international service provider. International adoptions services are provided by the City of Helsinki, Social Services and Health Care Committee, Interpedia ry and Save the Children.
A person resident in Finland who wants to adopt a child from abroad must, under the Adoption Act, regardless of their nationality obtain permission from the Adoption Board and receive adoption counselling and international adoption services.
Adoption of a child independently, outside the statutory procedure, comprises numerous uncertainty factors and risks. This includes, among other things:
The adoption is not valid in Finland.
Helsinki Court of Appeal will not grant an adoption for which permission should have been sought.
The child will not receive a travel document or a permit to enter Finland.
The child will not receive Finnish citizenship.
The child's background has not been clarified and/or irregularities are involved.
Adoption without a service provider
In exceptional cases, an adoption service provider cannot be used. In this context, permission for adoption can be obtained mainly in the event that the child to be adopted is a close relative of the prospective adopter and a Finnish service provider does not operate in the country of origin of the child to be adopted. In this case, too, the prospective adopter must obtain adoption counselling in Finland before applying for permission.
In order for granting of permission for adoption without a service provider to be considered, the Adoption Board must be provided with clarification that the child is really in need of international adoption (e.g. an orphaned child of a relative). First, however, it must be ascertained whether the child can remain living in his or her native country, for example, with other close relatives.
When permission for adoption without a service provider is being sought, the prospective adopter must submit the information required by the Adoption Board. This includes, among other things:
Requisite documents concerning the prospective adopter him- or herself.
Documents concerning the child's biological parents and/or siblings
Documents concerning the child to be adopted
Report on child's adoption need
Other information and documents required by the Adoption Board
DNA testing may be carried out, if necessary, to prove the parties are closely related.
The appropriate documentary evidence is required in the adoption process, when applying for the child's residence permit and for entering the child in the Population Register at the Local Register Office (if permission for adoption is granted). All foreign documents must be translated into Finnish, Swedish or English and legalised. If necessary, the prospective adopter may have to travel to the country of origin to rectify any deficient legalisations. The prospective adopter is responsible for obtaining all documents, translation thereof and legalisation as well as related costs him- or herself. The prospective adopter is also responsible for the costs of other reports that may be required (e.g. DNA tests).