Latvian government approves changes to foreign adoption rules

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The outgoing Latvian government decided on October 30 to restrict adoption of children to foreign countries, allowing such adoptions only in cases where the adoptive parents are the child’s relatives.

Under current legislation, foreign citizens can adopt children that are being raised in foster families if there are no possibilities in Latvia to ensure proper care of these children in families. The new adoption regulation will only allow adoption from foster families if the adoptive parents are the child’s relatives.

Like before, foreign citizens will be able to adopt children of their spouses, children from custodian families if the child is their relative, as well as children from orphanages if there is no possibility to provide a family environment to the kid in Latvia.

The issue triggered a heated discussion at the Cabinet meeting, with Welfare Minister Janis Reirs (Unity) dismissing all objections and stressing the necessity to give each child the opportunity to grow up in a family.

Kristine Lemantovica, a legal representative of adoption agencies, argued that the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention) obliged Latvia to inform about the planned amendments to the adoption regulation in a timely manner, which Latvia had failed to do. Reirs objected by asking the lawyer to show the paragraph containing such an explicit requirement, adding that Latvia provides sufficient information.

Madara Silina, a representative of the Children of the System public group, criticized the new regulation saying that it does not allow children to choose the family in which they would like to grow up. Silina said that as foster families do not always provide everything the children need, they often agree to get adopted by foreign citizens.

Reirs dismissed the criticism of the change saying that adoptions by foreign citizens will continue and the aim of the regulation is to promote adoptions from institutions, not foster families.

According to the account of the changes by the ministry itself, "The rules stipulate that future adopters will be obliged to undergo a special learning program, as there have been instances when people becoming adopters  are not emotionally mature enough for adoption or whose purpose is not to provide support to an out-of-home child. Also, certain deadlines are set for the implementation of separate activities in the adoption process... while foreign adopters will have to submit post-adoption reports.

"The new adoption procedure for Orphan's Courts provides for concrete and precise deadlines for the adoption process, because so far this was not the case," the government said.

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