The adoption process includes adoption counselling and intercountry adoption services.
The first stage of the adoption process is adoption counselling, which is mandatory for all adoptions. Adoption counselling is provided by municipal social welfare authorities and by Save the Children Finland. Adoption counselling is a social service that is free of charge for prospective adopters.
Permission from the Adoption Board
Basically, permission from the Adoption Board must be applied for by any person habitually resident in Finland who wishes to adopt a child under 18 years of age. This requirement applies to both domestic and intercountry adoptions. An adoption permission is not required for domestic adoptions if the prospective adopter intends to adopt a child of his/her spouse (intra-family adoption) or a child who has been cared for and brought up by the prospective adopter in an established manner.
An adoption permission is granted for a fixed term of no more than two years. If necessary, an extension to the period of validity of permission must be applied for before the permission expires.
Criteria for granting permission
In order to be granted an adoption permission, the prospective adopter must satisfy the criteria for granting permission that are specified in the Adoption Act. The prospective adopter must have received adoption counselling. In intercountry adoptions, it is principally also required that the prospective adopter must be provided intercountry adoption services.
The child’s interests are paramount in all decisions and other measures concerning the adoption of a minor child. The adoption of a minor child may be confirmed if it is deemed to be in the best interests of the child and if it has been established that the child will be well taken care of and brought up. In decisions on the matter, the child’s wishes and views shall be taken into consideration with regard to his/her age and degree of maturity.
The Act provides for the minimum and maximum age difference between the child and the prospective adopter when adopting a minor child. The age difference shall be no less than 18 years and no more than 45 years. Also, the prospective adopter must not be older than 50 years of age or younger than 25 years of age. These age limits may only be derogated from in special cases specifically provided for in the Act.
Married spouses may only adopt a child jointly, not singly. However, either spouse alone may adopt a child of his/her spouse or his/her own child who was previously adopted by someone else. Furthermore, either spouse may alone adopt a child if the other spouse cannot validly express his/her will due to an illness or disability, or if the whereabouts of the other spouse are not known. Persons other than married couples may not adopt a child jointly. However, individual persons may apply for adoption.
Further information on the criteria for granting permission, on the adoption process and on matters to consider in that process may be found in the adoption counselling guide published by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
The application processing time is currently 1 to 2 months.
Applications are processed in the order in which they are received. Applications for extensions are processed before the permission in question expires, as far as possible. If the Adoption Board requests any further clarifications in connection with a particular application, that application shall be processed at the next meeting after such further clarifications are received.
If you are concerned about the processing time of your application, please contact the secretaries of the Adoption Board. However, please be aware that it is not possible to give detailed estimates of the processing time of a particular application early on in the process. Principally, it is known about one week before each meeting which applications will be discussed at that meeting. You can find the meeting calendar of the adoption permission section of the Adoption Board at the end of this page.
Section 49 of the Adoption Act stipulates that in the event that any material changes occur in an prospective adopter’s circumstances during the validity of the permission, the prospective adopter shall notify the Application Board thereof without delay. The Board shall process notifications of changes in circumstances as a matter of urgency.
‘Material changes’ as referred to in the aforementioned provision include but are not limited to:
a death in the prospective adopter’s family,
a serious illness,
a criminal conviction,
relocating to another municipality, and
a new family member moving into the same household as the prospective adopter (e.g. the prospective adopter’s partner or a child placed in foster care with the family).
It is not possible to define comprehensively what might be regarded as ‘material changes’. Therefore, other kinds of changes in the prospective adopter’s circumstances may also be subject to the notification obligation.
The Covid-19 pandemic may affect the employment, finances and health of families and reflect in some other way on a family’s overall circumstances. The Adoption Board clarifies that in the Covid-19 pandemic emergency, compliance with the notification obligation must be assessed case by case even in the event of any changes in circumstances caused by the pandemic. To this end, prospective adopters must contact their adoption counselling provider, who, together with the prospective adopter, will assess whether the changes in the family’s circumstances affect the family’s overall circumstances and ability to receive a child through adoption. The Adoption Board does not require notification of a change in circumstances with regard to temporary layoffs lasting three months or less during the prevailing state of emergency, where the change does not materially affect the prospective adopter’s circumstances. In the event of changes in circumstances, prospective adopters must additionally also contact their adoption service provider so that the service provider is aware of any changes in family circumstances. This policy shall be valid until further notice and applies to the Covid-19 emergency.
A provider of adoption counselling and a service provider shall, notwithstanding any secrecy provisions, inform the Adoption Board without delay of any change in the prospective adopter’s circumstances brought to their attention that may result in the cancellation of the permission for adoption and of any issue that may result in the annulment of the Board’s decision under section 50 of the Administrative Procedure Act (434/2003).
When a provider of adoption counselling or a service provider has submitted such a notification or has been informed of such a notification submitted by another party, they shall discontinue the providing of adoption counselling or intercountry adoption services until the Adoption Board has ruled on the matter. There shall be no appeal against a decision of discontinuation.