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Adopting abroad: what are the procedures?


International adoption in France allows a few hundred adopters each year to finally grant their wish of parenthood. However, this human adventure requires candidates to take many steps before reaching the desired result, however beautiful it may be. Return on the key steps of adoption abroad.

Adopting abroad: a complex journey

Like the adoption of a child in France, international adoption often puts adopters to the test of a real administrative obstacle course. While it is generally shorter than in France (4 years instead of 5 on average), the latter is generally also sometimes complex.

Indeed, from a purely practical point of view, international adoption confronts adopters with additional procedures (and costs): travel to the adopted country, official translation of documents, legal assistance from a lawyer, etc.

Intercountry adoption is also complicated by the legal context in which it takes place. Thus, French adopters must not only ensure that their procedures are in accordance with French law, but also with the local legislation in force in the country of adoption and the Convention on the protection of children and cooperation in matters of intercountry adoption in The Hague, if the adopting State is a signatory.

The 5 stages of adoption abroad

The international adoption process in France always takes place in 5 main stages:

Obtaining accreditation

Whether the prospective adoptive parents have decided to try to adopt in France or abroad, the initial procedure remains the same. Obtaining approval is a sine qua non for the continuation of the procedure. However, the latter can vary significantly if the adopters are:

  • French and living in France,
  • French and living abroad,
  • foreigners residing in France.

As such, it may be good to get information from the Childhood Social Assistance (ASE) in your department.

The constitution of the file in France

This step is based on a fundamental preliminary decision: the choice of the country of adoption. In fact, depending on the country chosen, not only are the local procedures not identical, but the bodies authorized to process adoption requests are not the same.

In this respect, we can distinguish two scenarios:

  • Yes the adopted country is a signatory to the Hague Convention (CHL 1993), adopters will have to use an approved French operator, either:
    – a private law association recognized by the State in matters of adoption or OAA (Body Authorized for Adoption),
    – the French Adoption Agency.
  • If the adopted country is not a signatory of the CHL 1993, adopters can choose to use one of these two types of structure or carry out an individual adoption process which is not without risks (corruption, documentary fraud, lack of guarantees on the adoptability of children, suspension adoption procedures by the sovereign state.)

Registration with the International Adoption Mission:

The International Adoption Mission (MAI) is the central French authority in terms of adoption abroad. Any international adoption process must therefore be notified to him, through the adoption body or by the adopters themselves if they have undertaken an individual process. They must then communicate not only all the documents relating to the approval but also complete the information form of the MIA (link accessible below).

The procedure abroad

The procedures in the adopted country may vary in time and formalities depending on local legislation, but they always include the same main steps:

  • Matching or matching allows you to connect the adoptive family and the child to be adopted. However, it does not constitute a guarantee for adoption.
  • the issuance of an authorization to continue the adoption procedure,
  • the adoption judgmentlegal or administrative, confirming the simple or full adoption,
  • issuance of the certificate of conformity allowing the French justice to recognize the foreign judgment,
  • issuance of the child’s passport in his country of origin.

If the adoption procedure is carried out in one of the signatory countries of the 1993 Hague Convention, these procedures are supervised by the approved body. On the other hand, an individual process in a non-signatory adopted country is more risky because it lacks these procedural guarantees!

The return to France

Once the child’s passport has been issued, the administrative process of international adoption continues, in the country of adoption, then in France. Adopters must then:

  • apply for a visa: the return to France of a child adopted abroad must always be preceded by an application for a long-stay adoption visa with the consular authorities of the adopting country. It will also serve as a residence permit for the first 12 months of the child’s presence in France.
  • obtain recognition of the judgment: the steps taken to have the adoption judgment issued abroad recognized in France depend on both the type and the country of adoption.

    – In the event of full adoptiona request for a transcription of the judgment must be sent to the Nantes Tribunal de Grande Instance (TGI). If the judgment was issued by a competent court (or administration) in a signatory state of the 1993 CHL, the transcription is automatic. If the child’s country of origin is not a signatory, the judgment is checked before any transcription which is not automatic, however.

    – In case of simple adoption; the parents must request the enforcement of the judgment from the TGI on which their domicile depends. Always conducted with the help of a lawyer, this procedure aims to make enforceable in France an official decision issued abroad. Then, a request for simple adoption can be made to the TGI and it is only once this request has been accepted that the adopters can request a conversion of the judgment of simple adoption into full adoption.

Note: given the complexity, scope and slowness (sometimes more than a year for exequatur) of these procedures, the competent prefect may decide to grant the child a circulation document for minor foreigner (DCEM) allowing him to stay in France for the duration of the procedure.

Once the judgment has been recognized, the parents can then undertake the necessary formalities to allow the adopted child to acquire French nationality and to benefit from social benefits.

Adoption abroad: prepare for it and prepare the child!

Beyond the administrative procedure itself, the reception of a child adopted abroad requires a certain preparation (psychological, practical, etc.). The objective: to offer him an environment adapted to his needs and to be sure that the child and the adopters are ready to form a family together.

First essential step: the adoption plan.

If the future parents are necessarily brought to think about it during their application for approval, this project must be matured from the desire for adoption and throughout the procedure. Its interest: to allow adopters to formalize their expectations, their aptitudes, their limits, etc.

Equally crucial: the preparation of the child for his new family.

Beyond the very concrete difficulties that one can easily imagine for the child on his arrival in a new country (learning a foreign language, culture shock, etc.), he must not only be able to be at peace with his own history (prior to the adoption), but also to be accompanied in the creation of a new family history (the one he will build with the adopters). As soon as the match is made, it is therefore essential for adopters to increase their stays, or at least contact with the child, if possible, and to create links and bridges between these different stages of life. Producing a book of life that will allow the child to understand his origins, multiply videos, videos, photographs, music is therefore just as important as the preparation of the parents themselves for adoption.

Child health monitoring

This follow-up of the child in the process of adoption is also part of the essential preparations for a successful adoption. To this end, adopters have several tools:

  • the child’s file : obligatory according to articles 16-1 and 30-1 of the Hague Convention, it contains information on his identity, his adoptability, his social background, his personal and family development, his medical past and that of his biological family, especially.
  • the medical check-up aims to allow the family to welcome the child in the best conditions, taking into account its particularities. It is not only the child’s state of health that must be affected, but also his or her inheritance and prerequisite living conditions, which vary greatly from one country to another. Provided by a local doctor, it must be “supervised” by the parents (see as such the advice of the AFA on the questions to be asked about the health of the child in his country).

Note: official organizations also strongly advise adopters to find out about the main pathological risks for children according to their origin and those they are ready (or not) to accept when proposing matching (disabilities, viroses, etc.)

International adoption in France: stop preconceived ideas!

Candidates for adoption sometimes have the impression, in view of the adoption procedures in France of wards of the State, that international adoption may be, for lack of an easy solution, the means of lead to an adoption more in line with their “adoptive ideal” (very young child, cultural mix, etc.). In fact, official bodies systematically hammer home the current reality of adoption abroad to adopters:

  • The process remains long: even if it is a little shorter than in the case of adoption in France, the time before obtaining an international adoption remains on average 4 years, with possible variations depending on the country of adoption.
  • international adoption is down sharply since the early 2000s. Thus in 2016, only 956 visas for “international adoption” were issued to children. Despite a slight increase compared to the previous year due to the lifting of the suspension of international adoptions in the DRC, the real evolution is down by 11%.
  • As in France, children who can benefit from adoption abroad are increasingly from siblings, older, or presenting difficulties (disabilities, etc.). However, more than one in 2 international adoptions in 2016 (53%) were of a child aged 0 to 3 years.

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