An Overview of Inter-Country Adoption banner


An Overview of Inter-Country Adoption

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Angelina Jolie, Meg Ryan, Madonna – celebrities make adopting a child from an overseas country look easy. However, they, like everyone else considering an inter-country adoption, would have endured the long and strictly defined suitability process required to adopt a child from an overseas territory.

Failure to adopt the correct inter-country adoption procedure could result in you committing a criminal offence. Therefore, if you are considering adopting a child from another country, it is imperative to contact a family law solicitor who understands the procedure and can provide the best advice and representation. Often the best results are obtained from a family lawyer who is part of a larger firm with an Immigration law department. Here, the two teams can collaborate to ensure you receive the most detailed legal advice pertaining to inter-country adoption.

OTS Solicitors has been selected as one of the best law firms by Legal 500 for Immigration and Human Rights law. Our family and Immigration solicitors have an in-depth understanding of inter-country adoption matters and can assist you throughout the process.

Overseas adoptions – not always leading to happy families

The strict procedural processes in place for inter-country adoptions are essential to protect the best interests of children being adopted. The image of a child in need can spur many kind-hearted people to explore the idea of giving children who have been abandoned into institutions, or who are orphaned, a loving home. However, such children may have suffered severe psychological damage and need specialist support to integrate into normal society.

For example, several studies have highlighted the continued plight into adulthood of Romanian orphans adopted by Western families in the early 1990s. Despite being brought into a loving environment, with access to money and education, many former Romanian orphans have continued to experience problems forming relationships, gaining Employment and have to deal with serious emotional and cognitive problems well into adulthood.

Another tragic case of an overseas adoption gone wrong occurred in 2010 when an American family put a seven-year-old Russian boy they had legally adopted on a plane back to Moscow with a note stating he had “severe psychopathic issues”. Artyom Savelyev adoptive mother, Torry Hansen also put on the note that “After giving my best to this child, I am sorry to say that for the safety of my family, friends and myself, I no longer wish to parent this child."

The strict inter-country adoption process is designed to ensure potential adopters understand what they are getting into, especially if they are adopting a child who may have suffered neglect or abuse, and have access to professionals who can assist them and the child adapt to their new living arrangements.

Who can apply to adopt a child from abroad?

To be eligible to adopt a child from overseas you must be:

  • over 21 years
  • not have been convicted of any “special offences” (offences against children or sexual offences)
  • be a habitual resident or domiciled in the UK

How to begin an inter-country adoption

Aside from instructing a solicitor, one of the first steps when enquiring about adopting a child from abroad is to contact a specialist adoption agency authorised to deal with overseas adoptions.

The procedure you need to follow depends on the country you wish to adopt from. Countries are split into three camps:

  • Hague Convention countries
  • a country on a designated list
  • countries that fit into neither category

Hague Convention countries

The UK is a signatory to the Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (the Hague Convention). This treaty is designed to provide co-operation between signatory countries regarding child adoption, protect the best interests of the child and prevent child trafficking.

Any child adoption from another Hague Convention country is recognised under UK law. Parents will not have to re-adopt the child when they return with them to the UK. The adopted child will also automatically acquire British nationality if, at the time of the adoption, the prospective adopters are habitually in the British Isles and at least one of the prospective adopters is a British citizen.

Adoption from a country on a designated list

If a country is listed on the Adoption (Designation of Overseas Adoptions) Order 1973 (commonly known as ‘the designated list’), it will be recognised in UK law. There will be no need to readopt the child in the UK for the adoption to be recognised.

The difference between a designated list adoption and a Hague Convention adoption is the child will not automatically be granted British Citizenship. As parents, you will need to apply and whether British Citizenship is granted will be at the discretion of the Secretary of State for the Home Office.

Other countries

If the child you wish to adopt is not from a Hague Convention country or a designated list country, the adoption will not be recognised under UK law. You will need to apply for an adoption order in the UK. This application must be made in a UK court.

Section 83 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002

Section 83 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 applies to anyone who is habitually resident in the British Islands and:

  • wishes to bring a child who is not a habitual resident of the British Islands to the territory for the purposes of adoption, or;
  • at any time brings, or causes another to bring into the United Kingdom a child adopted by the British resident under an external adoption effected within the period of six months ending with that time.

Section 83 sets out the procedure for inter-country adoptions. Before the adopted child can enter the UK, the adoptive parents should have done the following:

  • have been assessed by a local authority or a registered adoption agency who will determine their suitability to adopt a child from another jurisdiction
  • visited the child’s home country
  • provided the adoption agency with details of the child they wish to adopt
  • told the adoption agency when they have visited the child in his or her home country, and when the child will enter the UK
  • have notification from the Secretary of State that a certificate to the authorities in the child’s home country has been issued

Failure to follow this procedure could result in a fine and/or imprisonment of between six to twelve months.

Final words

This article is the first of a series which will focus on inter-country adoption. In the meantime, you can contact our family law solicitors for further information. We are based near St Paul’s in London and have satellite offices throughout the capital, including Mayfair, Notting Hill, and Kensington. OTS Solicitors is also highly-ranked in the Legal 500 and our family law partner, Rakhi Singal is a member of Resolution.

OTS Solicitors is one of the most respected Immigration and family law firms in London. By making an appointment with one of our Immigration and/or Family Solicitors, you can be assured of receiving some of the best legal advice available in the UK today. We can assist you in all inter-country adoption matters.

If you wish to discuss any of the points raised in this blog, please phone our London office on 0203 959 9123.

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