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Adopting a child

You would like to adopt a child. You may want to adopt a child from your own family, your partner’s child, or a child you do not yet know.

Simple or full adoption

© Pieter Clicteur

In Belgium, there are two types of adoption, full adoption and simple adoption. In every adoption, the birth parents and adoptive parents must choose between full or simple adoption. For adoptions of children from abroad, this is also determined by the rules of the country of origin. Some countries only allow simple adoption.

Full adoption

In the case of full adoption, the child (and their descendants) receive the same rights and obligations as if they had been born to the adoptive parent(s). The legal ties with the original parent(s) are completely severed. This form of adoption is only possible for minors.

A full adoption is irrevocable. It can only be reviewed if there is evidence that the adoption was the result of abduction, sale or child trafficking.

Simple adoption

A simple adoption creates the same ties between the child and the adoptive parents as a full adoption. The ties between the child and the adoptive parents’ relatives are, however, far more limited.

For example, the child has no right to the estate of blood relatives of the adoptive parents. After all, the child retains these rights in their original family.

In addition to being reviewed, the simple adoption can also be revoked if there are very serious grounds for doing so. The request for revocation can originate from the adoptive parent(s), the adoptee or the Public Prosecutor.

Domestic adoption

With a domestic adoption you adopt a child who is living in Belgium, but who did not come to Belgium with the intention of being adopted. This may be the adoption of:

  • your partner’s child
  • a child from your family, such as a niece, nephew, grandchild, etc.
  • another known child such as a foster child or a child through a surrogate mother
  • an unknown child through a recognised adoption agency.

Each of these adoptions requires you to complete an adoption procedure. This means that you will have to complete a preparation course and possibly undergo a social study, especially when it concerns the domestic adoption of an unknown child.

If you adopt through a recognised adoption agency, this almost always involves children who are given up by their birth parent(s), and usually just the mother. The adoption agency counsels birth parents to ensure that they take an informed decision and all alternatives are explored. Most Belgian adopted children are given up shortly after birth. As a result, the children put up for adoption are mainly new-born babies. Occasionally, parents are sought for older children who live in an institution and no longer have a home, but this is rather rare.

The children are placed in the adoptive family

  • either after the consent is final (at the earliest two months after the child’s birth) and after the child has first stayed for a time with a foster family
  • or immediately after birth (if the mother is still considering adoption at that time), whereby it always remains to be seen whether the mother will eventually give her consent. There is a real chance that the child will have to be returned to its biological family after a few months.

Characteristics of domestic adoption

  • Mostly newborns whose future health and development are uncertain.
  • The child’s biological family is very close by and often resides in Belgium.
  • You will be required to respect the birth parents’ distance to adoption and privacy, given the living situation in Belgium.
  • You should be willing to exchange information with the birth family if they so request.
  • When choosing a placement immediately after birth, you need to be able to bond with a child who may return to their biological parents and you should be able to handle this if it happens.
  • There is a long waiting list. About 20 to 30 children are placed each year.

Foreign adoption

In a foreign adoption (or intercountry adoption), you adopt a child who is living abroad. This may be the adoption of:

  • a known child from your family, such as a niece, nephew, grandchild, etc.
  • an unknown child through a recognised adoption agency
  • an unknown child through an independent adoption.

For all these types of adoption you have to follow a procedure in Flanders before you take steps in the country of origin. In every adoption, the child’s best interests are taken into account in compliance with the Hague Adoption Convention. This also applies to intrafamily adoptions (if you wish to adopt a child from your family who is living abroad).

Only if the following sequence is respected can the adoption be recognised and the child come to Belgium.

  1. A suitability order has been obtained from the court.
  2. In the event of an independent adoption: The application to adopt from a specific country has been approved by the Flemish Central Authority for Intercountry Adoptions (Dutch: Vlaams Centrum voor Adoptie/VCA).
  3. A parent file has been sent to the competent authority in the country of origin by the VCA or the adoption agency.
  4. A child allocation has been approved by the VCA.

Characteristics of foreign adoption

  • The country from which you are adopting imposes its own conditions on adoptive parents. It is possible that you are allowed to adopt according to Belgian law, but that the country of origin does not accept your request.
  • You must pick up your child in the country of origin.
  • You must be willing to send aftercare reports, sometimes up to the age of 18, to the country of origin.
  • The children who can be adopted from abroad are sometimes older and often have a history (foundling, neglected, malnourished, etc.) that is very different from the living conditions in Belgium.
  • The child may face racism.
  • The child’s biological family lives far away, although they can quickly get closer via the Internet.