By reading several books, following a blog and attending a „preparatory course”, one can gather a wealth of information about adoption. Not only about the adoption process, but also about the psychological aspects, the emotions, experiences, grievances and difficulties of an adopted person, and parenting in general. The series is about a couple living in Hungary, so it presents the adoption system of Hungary. In this part (read the previous parts here and here) you can find a summary of basic information. Written by Noémi Szabó.
As I’ve mentioned in the previous parts, most of the information was collected from Zsuzsa Bogár’s book The Psychology of Adoption. Then, in August 2020, we participated in the Starter Group organized by Zsuzsa Mártonffy (adoptive parent, author of the blog örökbe.hu and the book The Child With Two Mothers) and Eszter Sulyok (also an adoptive parent, psychologist and parent-infant consultant). This is a 3-day “preparatory course” for those who have not yet committed to adoption or even those who have already applied. I will now summarize the most important basic information obtained there.
When I started digging into the subject, the most surprising facts for me were that in Hungary, even those who could have a biological child (this applies to us) can also adopt, and that in Hungary, gay or lesbian couples can also adopt children (although they can only apply as singles and thus fall at the very end of the line because married couples are preferred).
In Hungary, the Regional Child Protection Service (RCPS) and its regional offices deal with child protection, guardianship and adoption, and they also maintain children’s homes and train foster parents.
Adoptive parents vs. foster parents
What’s the difference? Discussing our plans with a more and more family members and friends, we often found that the majority of Hungarians are not fully aware of the meaning and differences of the above two concepts.
Foster parents temporarily raise one or more children. It’s temporary because in such cases, the biological family still visits the child, and in an optimal case, the child may get back to them, although this temporary state can last for years. A child who was removed from their family can live in a children’s home or at foster parents, or both in succession. Foster parenting is a paid profession, and it’s preceded by extensive training. If a child is declared adoptable, it is (it would be) the duty of foster parents to help during the initial meetings with the prospective parents.
In contrast, adoptive parents become the official parents of the child after the adoption: their name is included in the birth certificate, they hold all parental rights in relation to the child, and in case of their death, the child inherits from them. In rare and justified cases, adoptive parents may return the child to child protective services, losing all parental rights. In Hungary, it would be useful to make it less simple and easy to give up an adopted child. I think that parental responsibilities should be maintained so that the parents can feel the weight of their actions.
How can a child be declared adoptable?
Many children live without their biological parents either in foster families or in residential child care, but not all of them are adoptable. Only children who have been declared adoptable can be adopted.
In the case of older children: if a child is endangered or abused in their biological family, or if their family is unable to provide them with adequate living conditions (even if it’s not their fault), they are removed from the family by child protection. The child is taken into residential child care where their family can visit them. But if the visits dwindle, then, after 3 months (based on the latest legislation), the child is declared adoptable. However, if the family manages to set things straight, the child can move back home.
In the case of infants: if the mother puts her baby in an incubator (in Hungary, incubators are installed in hospital lobbies where babies can be left anonymously and more safely), in which case the child will know nothing about their biological parents, or if the mother leaves her baby in the hospital after giving birth, the infant can be declared adoptable almost immediately. In either case, the mother can change her mind until the infant is 6 weeks old.
Closed and open adoption
The main difference is in whether the biological and prospective adoptive parents get to know each other.
Closed adoption is usually for older children who have been living in residential child care or with foster parents for some time. Since in these cases, biological parents have no parental rights (they either waived their rights or were deprived of them), they cannot decide who can adopt their child. Closed adoption is also used, although less frequently, in the case of newborns. Prospective adoptive parents can obtain information about the biological family from a file (that often has incomplete information). Most of the time, the RCPS arranges these adoptions.
Open adoptions are mainly for newborns, and are handled by NGOs. In such cases, mothers-to-be in crisis pregnancy can take part in selecting the prospective parents, she can meet them and get to know them – just like the adoptive parents who can get to know her (and her family), take a photo of her, which helps them tell a more authentic story to their growing child about the biological family. In an optimal case, the child isn’t taken into state care at all. During the process, personal data of both parties is also shared. After adoption, adoptive parents usually send information and photos to the biological mother through the organization’s intermediary on a yearly basis so that the biological mother can keep being informed about her child.
In Hungary, several NGOs and foundations support crisis pregnancies and conduct adoptions. Their main focus is on supporting pregnant women in being able to keep and raise their babies. Occasionally, they support proper living conditions through gifts in kind and counseling.
If, despite all assistance, the mother cannot take on raising her child, then the NGO supports open adoption. Different organizations have different working methods; they have different processes for selecting applicants for adoption. Applicants, however, must always obtain a certificate from the RCPS to be able to apply to these organizations.
Mention should also be made of the less common case of private adoption of newborns. In such a case, the biological and adoptive parents know each other before starting the process and the mother’s deliberate intention is to give up the baby for them. Nevertheless, a certificate is required and an intermediary (usually from one of the above NGOs) is involved to provide psychological and professional support.
The next part of the series details the process of obtaining the certificate of aptitude for adoption.
Source of featured image: pxhere.com
Translated by Ádám Hittaller