• Sweden's news in English

Adopting in Sweden: a draining process with amazing returns

Lydia Parafianowicz · 15 Jun 2009, 16:44

Published: 15 Jun 2009 16:44 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Brett, originally from Australia, met Eleonore, a Swede, 12 years ago while he was backpacking across Europe and she was on holiday with friends. They married in 2000 and spent time living between Sweden and Australia before settling in Stockholm to start a family. After many failed attempts to conceive, they decided to research the option of adoption.

“Most people just assume they can have kids,” says Brett. “When it doesn’t happen and you’re in the scenario of looking to adopt, it’s a non-issue. All of a sudden there was a solution.”

They say the process was long, stressful and mentally draining. Before applying to an adoption agency, couples must be approved by government social welfare services (Socialtjänsten), which can take up to six months. Social workers assess aspects of the couple’s suitability, including economic status, reference and police checks, health, and living conditions, including house visits.

“You go through a stringent test of interviews,” explains Brett. “We were really nervous. You want to show them your best side and make a good impression."

Once the social worker had granted approval, the Roberts were legally able to apply for a child. They went through the Barnens Vänner Internationell Adoptionsförening, one of six agencies in Sweden that organizes international adoptions.

“Once they’ve been approved, we help prepare their application and mediate the information from the contact abroad,” explains Mona Berglund of the agency. “There is a waiting list depending what country you want to adopt from, on average one to two years.”

She says the government’s approval to adopt is valid for two years. Sometimes families are unable to obtain a child in that window because of long wait times, and then must reapply. Other families run into problems because of age. It is recommended applicants are under 42 when applying; getting a child can take up to three years, and the government prefers new parents be under 45.

The BV agency works with five countries: China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Kenya, Sri Lanka (though current political unrest has that partnership on hold). Berglund says each country has different requirements for adoptive parents, such as a minimum number of years married, economic statuses, or health checks. It’s the agency’s job to help families tailor their applications to each country’s wants, and each country will match a child to a family.

“If you look at figures of children coming to Sweden, it’s China where most come from,” says Berglund. In 2007, Sweden had 800 foreign adoptions, 280 of which came from China. But she says since adoption rates within the country have been increasing, often foreign parents wanting to adopt must be open to children with special needs, such as limb deformity, cleft palate or heart conditions.

“There are representatives for the children that look at different families’ applications and choose the family that best suits the child,” explains Berglund. Once a family has been selected, they are notified and can arrange to meet their child.

“Iris was 12 days old when we found out we got her,” recalls Brett. “I had been to Australia and just come back to Sweden. Eleonore was in Peru visiting a friend, so we weren’t even together. I get goosebumps thinking about it, I was downloading the photo of her and on the phone with Eleonore.”

But the Roberts say the most difficult step in the process came next, as it took nine months before they could fly to Taiwan to meet their daughter.

“We were really unlucky,” says Eleonore. “In the whole process that was the worst. It was all about paperwork and judges, and unfortunately our case was one of the longest up to that date. It was really tough.”

She says the orphanage sent photos every month with measurements, weight, and updates, and she took comfort knowing Iris was in a reputable orphanage. While typically parents wait about four months, the judge handling their case took longer.

“We were so desperate to go and get her,” says Eleonore. “We couldn’t call the judge and tell him to hurry, as that could have a negative effect.”

After nine months, they went to Taiwan prematurely, with the paperwork not totally completed. They celebrated New Years’ 2008 on a plane, heading to meet their child, already nine months old.

Story continues below…

“The hardship of waiting and being stressed, it all disappeared the moment we got her,” says Brett, who said the paperwork was completed upon their arrival.

“Everyone says, ‘You missed her first smile,’” adds Eleonore. “But we didn't. The first time she smiled for us was our first smile, so we still got that. We missed nine months, but you forget that really quickly.”

They say since returning to Sweden, life has been a whirlwind, filled with leaning about parenting and helping Iris adjust to life in a new country. A few weeks ago Iris had her first day at school, and Eleonore says like any parent, she had a difficult time letting her go.

“I can't imagine life without her, she’s the sole focus of our life,” says Brett. “I feel more complete, in a funny way. We’re incredibly proud and think she’s super cute. It brings us closer together in becoming a family.”

The Roberts have also begun the process of adopting for a second time, again from Taiwan, and are hoping to have the paperwork ready to send by the end of summer.

“At the end of the day the process is definitely worth it,” says Brett. “When it’s in the middle it’s complicated, expensive and takes forever, but you get something pretty amazing for the effort you put in.”

Lydia Parafianowicz (lydia.parafianowicz@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

08:29 June 16, 2009 by apostolos1975
One thing I dont understand is why does society make it so difficult to adopt while it puts no freaking limitations on reproduction. Its like, hej you cant have a baby on your own? I bet you suffer, let us prolong your suffering even more. Whereas on the other hand if you have a kid in a dysfunctional family they system makes any possible attempt to help the useless "parents" go through.

13:00 June 16, 2009 by insect
I guess to avoid child trafficking. If people knew it was so easy to find children homes in other countries, there would be a sharp increase in kidnappings and trafficked children.
17:02 June 16, 2009 by Gwrhyr
The strict regulations are in place to prevent the purchasing and selling of babies.

Of course it's sad that those who would want to profit from selling babies make it harder for children who need homes and homes who are willing to take in those children... but if the system is loosened up on this issue, then there would be a thriving free market in babies.

Maybe Sweden needs a Babybolaget to facilitate easier adoption without profit motive or the incentive to buy more babies.
17:15 June 16, 2009 by Puffin
Sweden has a couple of not for profit organisations that facillate international adoptions - such as Adoption centrum. There needs to be checks to prevent trafficking and unwise adoptions

The system needs to be hard when most adoptions relate to children from other cultures who may have suffered abuse and neglect in their early years - then parents have to face how they will deal with their dopted child possibly wanting to head off abroad to search for their *real* parents at some point in the future - so parents need to be prepared
11:41 June 18, 2009 by Bra_billie_boy
It is extremely important to do a background check on potential parents before they are given the custody of the child. Sitting here in Sweden, this might be hard to believe, but such cases are very common around the world where some couple adopts a child and it later turns out that their main motive was to train the kid in to becoming a prostitute, or a drug trafficker, or they are forced to go through limb amputation and later put on streets for begging.

I say again, this sounds really disturbing for anyone living in modern society like Sweden, but believe me when I say that this practice is very common in many countries of South America, Africa and South Asia. So kindly avoid making fun of these strict regulations.
09:25 June 20, 2009 by Aigbe73
I think the banker should think of having her own child , she seems to like her job more than baby making. Maybe the job is more important, as she feels adoption or buying of child is possible if you have good economic background.
10:03 June 20, 2009 by Puffin
Which bit of unable to conceive didn't you understand???
13:31 June 20, 2009 by Tim Harrison
You clearly do not understand this article or adoption at all! Adoption is NOT about buying a child, or a parent NOT wanting to conceive his/her biological child. I would prefer that you read up on a subject before you post anything like this next time.

My wife and I are the proud parents of two wonderful children from Bulgaria, and the day we got them was one of the best day of our lives, that day and our wedding day. The process did take a long time, but it was well worth it. Besides, this way we know that every step of the way is legal.
18:12 June 20, 2009 by Essingen
Lets all look on the bright side. You joined this forum in May 2006 and have only made 3 posts since then. Lets hope that you only do another three during the next three years!
09:39 June 22, 2009 by coming2sweden

Congratulations on your adoption and glad for you as parents having child and eventually children of your own.

I am sure that the adopted child is also very happy to have two parents.

I sincerely hope that your family stay together forever. As the chance of a breakup is very high in Sweden, I pray that if that should happen, God forbid, your child or children will always have both of you as parents. Please do not deny your child or children access to both parents after a divorce - which many self- centred and vindictive divorced parents do. The pain to the child is as strong and painful and the complete opposite to the happiness on the first day you have the child.

Good luck and much happiness.
10:14 June 22, 2009 by Puffin
Wow sounds like a bitter post - and not strictly relevant to this thread

However I think that it takes a strong couple to go through the adoption process where every element of your relationship, health, finances and home life are put under the microscope. But Sweden like other countries where the divorce rate is very high - such as the USA, not even adoptive parents are immune to divorce
15:16 June 22, 2009 by Essingen
Although you are correct Puffin that the process is very thorough here in Sweden, having gone through it myself I would say that it is very fair. People also benefit by international adoption being very common here in Sweden, whereas in for example, the UK, it is something of a rareity. On the financial side, adoption is now a very expensive process, but at least Sweden recognises this fact and tries to help out a little. And on top of this there are very many support groups, pre-schools and of course the excellent dagis system once you eventually bring the child home. The whole process is designed to protect the best interests of the child, in both countries involved. Apart from the fact that it takes too long, I would say that it works very well.
15:40 June 22, 2009 by Puffin
How long the process takes varies from kommun to kommun - some kommuns have bizaare rules which means the process takes much longer than necessary
20:15 June 22, 2009 by Essingen
Actually the main problem isn't in Sweden at all but rather in the countries that offer children for adoption. The largest of these is China. Here you can now expect to wait at the very least 3 years and probably much longer. This is due to the fact that there are now very many more domestic adoptions there as the country has become richer. Unsurprisingly domestic adoptions are considered preferable to international ones. Many other countries also have very long waiting times.
09:10 June 23, 2009 by skane refugee
There have been very many harrowing documentaries shown on UK television about rural chinese families having their babies stolen to order for adoption by western families from countries that allow this practice ... the stealing and subsequent paperwork falsification is done for as little as a few thousand kroner per baby

Of course the motivations of the western adopting parents are nearly always the very best ... and the paperwork and story from the 'orphanages'/'organisations' providing babies for adoption in china are always impeccably in order ... the preparation and screening processes are often very good in the western countries too ... but all that misses the absolutely key point ...

If any of the cost of the adoption process (above a very basic admin fee to cover paperwork and chinese admin time) goes to anyone in China, there is a financial incentive created to steal babies from loving rural Chinese families, who are of course shattered in the process

Extremely strict cost scrutiny is I believe the key in the adoption process to ensuring that there is absolutely no financial incentive in the target country to 'secure' extra babies for adoption ...

Is this essential strict financial scrutiny part of the adoption process for Swedes?!?!
09:24 June 23, 2009 by Puffin
In my case it was the kommun which contributed to the problems - my kommun had a *rule* that they only dealt with one adoption case at a time - so if someone had started the process just in front of you - you would have to wait until their whole assessment was completed before they would start the detailed work on the next couple's case. This often meant 6-12 months on the waiting list within the kommun
09:29 June 23, 2009 by Essingen
I too have seen one such programme, although I can't immediately recall that it was for international adoption that the babies were being stolen.

China abides by the Hague convention for its international adoption process. It has an extremely good record internationally for the way in which it does this and I was astounded at the quality of the children's home and level of care. It would be impossible to adopt in Sweden without using a recognised adoption agency.
10:15 June 23, 2009 by Puffin
Although I do know of one family that on its return to Sweden found that their adopted baby was infected with Hep B - although having said that they were very happy with the treatment and procedures in China - a lot less chaotic than in som countries

.. although perhaps the clue might have been in the fact that they were allowed to adopt a boy - at the time the first that had been adopted outside China
10:19 June 23, 2009 by skane refugee
For Americans adopting from China the US State Department tolerates fees in the range of $3,000 to $5,000 payable to Chinese 'Childrens Welfare Institutes' as a combined 'donation' to the institute and to reflect the 'costs of caring for the child' before adoption is completed.

Additionally up to $500 for 'transportation or expedited processing of documents' (i.e. speeding things up!) is also tolerated.

Any payments above these indicative levels and American adoptive parents are supposed to notify the US embassy and Consulate General.

Is there equivalent financial guidance for Swedes from the Swedish authorities Essingen?
11:11 June 23, 2009 by Puffin
I saw an awful documentary once about a US family that arranged a private adoption of a premature baby from a maternity home in the Ukraine - they went through a private lawyer and skipped all the usual checks - when they got back to the US they found that the baby had a development delay as a result of being premature.

The couple were very angry that they "did not get what we paid for" and that it was too expensive to have a baby with disabilities - so they flew back to the Ukraine and dumped the baby in a orphange....
12:41 June 23, 2009 by Essingen
I am not sure how the level of fees is set, but the figures that you quote are exactly the same as we paid to China so I guess the answer to your question is "yes". You may well be right that the fees are heavily influenced by the the US because all our fees were in USD which seemed a bit strange at the time given that the Chinese obviously have their costs in Yuan. What makes it more expensive however, is that the Chinese require you to spend a couple of weeks in China to absorb some of the culture. That is actually quite sensible. The US is the dominant country in terms of adoptions from China. I am sure that its agencie both in Sweden and the US, together with the Welfare Institutes in China are doing an excellent job.
15:06 June 23, 2009 by skane refugee
Thx Essingen.

It strikes me as very strange that such high fees are levied in China from foreign adoptive parents ... after all, the children would presumably otherwise be cared for at Chinese public expense ...

... surely foreign parents adopting chinese babies and children (for whom there is presumably no willing Chinese family to adopt) are dramatically reducing the strain on China's public services for years to come? ... therefore why a fee at all?? ... from a Chinese perspective it should be well worth the paperwork and assessment process to free up space and carer time for other Chinese children in need

If the argument for fees is to ensure that foreign families are serious and have resources available ... then far better to have the foreign would-be parents make many trips to China to complete the interview process etc (as Essingen says is already involved) ...

... that way (as long as the foreign would-be parents can choose freely their own travel and accomodation arrangements) at least there is no chance of foreign cash making its way to the organised crime gangs behind child traffiking

I would imagine that the various western adoption agencies involved must currently spend a very large percentage of their time auditing and tracking the use of the 10's of thousands of kroner paid over per child in China ... so that they can declare the children adopted as 100% guaranteed genuine orphans for whom no Chinese adoptive family could be found ...

Surely it would be better for the Chinese to just waive the fees entirely, make the travel requirements more onerous and get the money through tax on tourism instead?

No scandal, better Chinese image abroad, peace of mind for would-be adoptive parents in the West, and the western agencies can focus all their energy on making the process a success for the children concerned with all necessary support for the families involved
Today's headlines
Sweden can extend border controls, EU says
A police officer carrying out a check at Sweden's border with Denmark. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

EU countries including Sweden should be granted permission to extend temporary border controls by a period of a further three months, the European Commission has decided.

Nobel Prizes
'I'd say he's arrogant but I'd be lying': Swedes on Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan performing in France. Photo: David Vincent/AP

Almost two weeks have passed since Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and he has yet to acknowledge the win. The Local asked Swedes what they think of the singer's silence.

Sweden cuts 2016 refugee forecast by thousands
A Swedish migration authority office in Stockholm. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

The country has also slashed its prediction for 2017.

Swedish researchers plan new trucks for women drivers
File photo of trucks in Sweden. Photo: Thomas Johansson/TT

Could vehicles adapted for women attract more female truckers to the profession?

These stats show Swedish driving isn't so gender equal
File photo of a Swedish woman driving a car. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

A new survey shows that few Swedish women get behind the wheel when driving with their male partner.

Revealed: Game of Thrones could be coming to Sweden
Game of Thrones cast members at the Emmy Awards in September. Photo: Jordan Strauss/AP

The producers of the hit show have asked for three rounds of location pictures of Swedish island Gotland.

Prime Minister to meet Swedish troops in Iraq
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and his Kurdish counterpart Nechervan Barzani. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Sweden's Prime Minister Löfven is set to meet Swedish troops in Iraq on Tuesday.

Swedish politicians wage war on winter time
Soon it will look like this on your way home from work in Sweden. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Should Sweden stick with summer time all year round?

'Don't turn the Pope into a global teddy bear'
Sweden's Queen Silvia and Princess Leonore visiting Pope Francis in the Vatican last year. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

It's time to hold the Pope to account and make sure he turns his words about reform into action, argues a minister of the Swedish Church ahead of Pope Francis' visit to Sweden.

Löfven: 'Sweden will double its number of troops in Iraq'
Stefan Löfven and Haider al-Abadi during the visit on Monday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has promised to double his country's number of troops in Iraq following a meeting with Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi on Monday.

Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
The Local Voices
'I simply don’t believe in nationality'
Why we're convinced Game of Thrones is based on Sweden
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
jobs available