Basically, in intercountry adoptions an adoption service provider must always be used. Each service provider is licensed by the Finnish Adoption Board to collaborate with a foreign service provider.
There are three adoption service providers in Finland:
1. Interpedia ry (interpedia.fi)
2. Save the Children Finland: intercountry adoption services (pelastakaalapset.fi)
3. City of Helsinki Social Services and Health Care (not accepting new clients) (hel.fi)
Between them, the service providers are licensed to collaborate with service providers in 9 countries: South Africa, China, Thailand, Colombia, India, the Philippines, Bulgaria, Taiwan and Kyrgyzstan. Country information may be found on the service providers’ websites.
Service fees and reimbursements
The Adoption Act specified that intercountry adoptions shall principally be affected through an adoption service provider. Adoption services are subject to a fee. The Adoption Act and the relevant international conventions state that as a general principle, adoption service providers must not derive financial gain from the operations and that the policy for any payments must be transparent.
For details on fees, please visit the websites of service providers:
- Interpedia (interpedia.fi)
- Save the Children Finland: intercountry adoption services (pelastakaalapset.fi)
- City of Helsinki Social Services and Health Care (not accepting new clients) (hel.fi)
In exceptional cases an adoption service provider is not required
Permission for adoption without using an adoption service provider may be granted principally in cases where the adoptee is a close blood relative of the prospective adopter and there is no Finnish service provider operating in the adoptee’s country of origin.
In such cases, however, the prospective adopter must nevertheless receive adoption counselling in Finland prior to applying for permission to adopt.
In order for the Finnish Adoption Board to consider an application for permission to adopt without an adoption service provider, the prospective adopter must present sufficient proof that the child is in need of intercountry adoption (e.g. a member of the prospective adopter’s extended family who has been orphaned). It must first be investigated whether the child might be placed with other close relatives in the country of origin, for instance.
Documentation for adoption without an adoption service provider
When a prospective adopter applies for permission to adopt without an adoption service provider, the prospective adopter must provide any and all documentation that may be required by the Adoption Board.
The documents that may be required by the Adoption Board include but are not limited to the following:
- necessary documentation concerning the prospective adopter himself/herself
- documentary evidence of the relationship between prospective adopter and adoptee (blood relative)
- a DNA test may be commissioned to prove a family relationship if necessary
- 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 meansother documents and clarifications requested by the Adoption Board
Appropriate documentation is required for the adoption permission process, for applying for a residence permit for the child and for entering the child in the Population Register at the Local Register Office (assuming that permission to adopt has been granted). Documents in foreign languages shall be provided with an authorised translation into Finnish, Swedish or English and legalised. The prospective adopter may be required to travel to the country of origin to rectify any inadequately legalised documents.
The prospective adopter himself/herself is responsible for acquiring all the required documents, for having them translated and legalised, and for paying all costs thereby incurred. The prospective adopter shall also be liable for the costs of any other investigations that may be required (e.g. DNA tests).
Legalisation of documents
In order for a document issued by a foreign authority to have legal validity in Finland, it must be legalised. Legalisation of a document is a procedure that safeguards the legal rights of the parties concerned and ensures administrative reliability, i.e. it confirms that the party issuing the document is authorised to issue such a document pursuant to the legislation of the country in question.
Legalisation may be performed in one of two ways, depending on whether the country in question is a signatory to The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents of 1961 (the Apostille Convention). If a document was issued in a state party to the Apostille Convention, its legality may be confirmed with an apostille certificate issued by the competent authority in that country. An apostille certificate confirms that the signature on the document, the official position of the signatory and, if necessary, the seal or stamp on the document are legally valid. In non-apostille countries, documents must be legalised by the foreign ministry of the country in question, after which the competent Finnish mission in that country must legalise the document by attaching a certificate verifying that the foreign ministry official in question is authorised to issue such a legalisation. If there is no Finnish mission in the country in question, and the country in question does not belong to the domain of any Finnish mission, it may be possible in some cases to legalise documents at the mission of another Nordic country (except Norway).
Because forged documents are common in western Africa, the authenticity of any document from that region must be confirmed before it can be legalised. The applicant is responsible for verifying the authenticity of any document and is therefore required to deliver the document to a law firm monitored by the Finnish mission and by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to have the authenticity of the document verified. The applicant is also liable for the costs of verifying authenticity. Because not all Nordic countries require a certificate of authenticity for documents from the region of western Africa, it is not possible to legalise documents from that region destined for Finland at the mission of another Nordic country.
For further information on legalisation and verification procedures for western African documents, please visit the website of the Finnish Embassy in Abuja
All documents must be submitted in Finnish, Swedish or English. For documents in any other language, an authorised translation must be provided. List of authorised translators in Finland. If a document was translated abroad, the translation itself must also be legalised.
Warning from the Adoption Board: Independent adoptions are risky
The Adoption Act of 2012 introduced stricter criteria for adoption. The purpose of this was to combat the risks inherent in independent adoptions, such as trafficking in children. Another purpose is to ensure that adoptees have a true need for intercountry adoption. Effecting an adoption through an international service provider is the best way to safeguard the child’s best interests. Intercountry adoption services are provided in Finland by City of Helsinki Social Services and Health Care (not accepting new clients), Interpedia and Save the Children Finland.
Any person resident in Finland, regardless of citizenship, who wishes to adopt a child from abroad must have permission to adopt from the Finnish Adoption Board, must receive adoption counselling and must use intercountry adoption services.
Adopting a child independently, bypassing the statutory process, involves many uncertainties and risks. These include but are not limited to the following:
- the adoption will not be legally valid in Finland
- the Helsinki District Court will not confirm an adoption for which permission should have been applied for
- the child will not be issued a travel document or entry permit to Finland
- the child will not be given Finnish citizenship
- the child’s background will not have been investigated and/or involves abuse