After she and her husband explored various options, this mama found adoption to be the best choice she ever made.
Like many Sassy Mamas-to-be, I had spent years as a teenager and in my 20s desperately trying not to get pregnant. If you believed the rumours at school, you only needed to brush past a boy for a chance to be “up the duff”, probably with triplets. Therefore, when my husband and I decided the time was right to start our family as full-fledged grown-ups, we assumed it would only be a matter of time before we were the proud owners of a screaming, pooping tiny human mini-me of our very own.
Fast forward to years of monthly disappointment, multiple doctors’ appointments and tests later, it was still just the two of us. So, we started to consider our options – IUI? IVF? Adoption? A menagerie of animals instead? After a lot of soul searching (and my husband’s frank rebuttal of the menagerie idea) we settled on local adoption through the Social Welfare Department (“SWD”) in our new hometown of Hong Kong, and it turned out to be the best decision we ever made.
For anyone considering their options here in Hong Kong, know first that there is a lot to consider, so make sure you have a sturdy thinking hat on. Read on for a general breakdown of the questions you might ask yourself and some advice about where to start. (Editor’s Note: this is part one of a two-part series. Stay tuned for next month’s article.)
Is adoption right for me and my family?
The whole adoption process will be made up of hundreds of questions but this first one will be undoubtedly the hardest you will answer. Knowing how you might feel about welcoming a child that is not biologically yours into your family requires a crystal ball level of insight and it is such a personal question that no one else will be able to answer it for you.
Give yourself plenty of time to think the decision through; if you are part of a couple, make sure that you are both fully on board with the idea, and if you are single, make sure you have your tribe rallying around you, as, believe me, this is a team game. Discuss it (if you feel comfortable) with your family and friends, read and research prolifically and if you can, speak to someone who has done it. There is a wealth of resource available through the charity Adoptive Families of Hong Kong which I found really helpful throughout the whole process. The good news is that once the decision is made, all the other questions you have to answer will be a breeze in comparison.
Are you eligible?
Before you dive into the process you need to make sure you meet the basic criteria for a person or family looking to adopt locally in Hong Kong:
- You have to be over the age of 25 (for couples, one must be over 25 and the other over 21).
- Both couples and single applicants should be mature and willing to make a lifelong commitment to adopting and raising a child in a stable environment.
- You should be physically and mentally fit to raise a child until independence – health check proof is needed.
- You should be reasonably well educated.
- Couples should have been married for at least three years (the period is increased to five years if there have been multiple divorces).
- You need to be gainfully employed (at least one of you) and have sufficient financial means to take on the responsibility, including any additional needs your adoptive child may have. You will need to put together a household budget of income and expenditure to demonstrate this.
- You must have resided in Hong Kong for more than 12 months and must be prepared to be based in Hong Kong for at least 12 more months or until the adoption process is completed.
- You should have no previous criminal record.
For international adoption, there may be different or additional criteria to meet, depending on the country that you are looking to adopt from. For these criteria, it is best to contact the International Social Services (contact details below) who will be able to advise you.
Are you ready?
No-one can really tell you if you are ready to adopt, but you may want to think about whether you have given yourself enough time to recover from any big life changes causing emotional or physical stress. You may be grieving a miscarriage or your loss/lack of fertility. Be prepared to discuss this frankly as part of the application process with a social worker as they will be able to help you decide if and when the time is right for you to start the process. It may be suggested to you to wait a certain period of time between your last fertility treatment and starting the adoption process. You may also want to consider whether you have the right support network in place. For instance, many expatriate families don’t have family members living close by so gather your friends and tribe around you and make sure you have plenty of emotional support, as it can be a lonely road. Adoptive communities can be found all around Hong Kong so get involved to build your adoptive family network too.
Where do I start – agency or direct?
If you have made the decision that adoption is for you then to start the process you can contact the Social Welfare Department (SWD) directly or you can choose to go through one of the three accredited NGO agencies (see below). In general, going direct with the SWD is the no frills approach; other than the adoption fee payable by any adoptive parents there is nothing extra to pay but you will also not receive any extra services during or after the adoption placement. The agencies listed at the bottom of this article will offer much more in the way of an all-round service including training and workshops – check the individual websites for the up-to-date fees they charge:
How does it work?
All prospective adoptive parents have to go through the same application process of forms, workshops, interviews and home visits, and as part of the very extensive application form you will fill out a “child preference form”. This form details what sort of child you are willing to adopt, including criteria such as age, sex, circumstances of adoption and any medical/health needs you can or cannot consider. Once approved by the SWD and regardless of whether you used an agency or not, all approved parents are put into the “adoptive parents pool”.
All of the eligible children are placed into the “adoptees pool”, regardless of where they might be living. The SWD, in cooperation with the NGO agencies, will then try to make the best match between the children and parents available. It is not a queue and all parents in the pool have equal opportunities at being chosen. Priority is given to the very best possible match of child and parental circumstances, ethnicity and preferences, as opposed to who has been waiting the longest.
You can’t visit the orphanages or homes to “handpick” your child, even if you volunteer there. Your social worker will be the person who will be matching you with a child and you won’t be meeting your new child (other than on paper) until after you have agreed to enter into an adoption placement.
What sort of children are available?
If you opt to adopt locally in Hong Kong then the children will be living in one of the several orphanages in Hong Kong, small group homes, or foster care, and they come from a variety of circumstances and ethnicities.
All the children in care are categorised into:
- Healthy children.
- Children with unknown or complicated family backgrounds.
- Older children (aged 3 or above).
- Children with identified health issues or special needs.
The SWD will display statistics of how many children are available for adoption on its website quarterly.
Something to bear in mind is that the “healthy” category is nearly always zero, simply because these are the easiest children to match with adoptive parents and, therefore, are often adopted before these statistics are collated. It is also worth noting that a child with even mild health issues would not be put into the “healthy” category even if their issues were common (think asthma or eczema) or easily cared for. Don’t let these statistics put you off!
How much does it cost?
For local adoptions, a fee of $3,970 is charged to the successful applicants once an adoptive child is placed with the family, for acting as guardian in adoption proceedings. If you use an agency, it also charges fees on top of this for its services listed above.
For international adoptions, however, you can expect to pay many thousands of dollars, depending on what country you are adopting from. As a rough guide, adopting from Mainland China can cost upwards of US$30,000.
How long does it take?
Local adoptions in Hong Kong can typically take between 12 to 24 months, including the application process, though some local and many international adoptions can take significantly longer.
The application process at the beginning took us around nine months although we gave ourselves plenty of time to research before we gave in our main application form. Once you have been matched, the child will live in your care as guardian for around six months before the adoption process is complete and you become the child’s legal parents. The length of time it will take for you to be matched is a real unknown; it totally depends on the children in care at that time and how specific your criteria are.
Of course, the wider your preferences are, the more likely you are to be matched quickly, so it really depends on what sort of child you are looking for. As babies tend to be most in demand, you may be waiting much longer to be matched than you would with an older child.
Adoption isn’t for everyone. It can be a lonely, frustrating road at times, but it is ultimately an incredibly rewarding way to build a family.
“You can’t change the world by adopting one child, but for that one child you will change their world forever.”
Social Welfare Department
Tel: 3595 1935,
Po Leung Kuk (provides local adoption services for Hong Kong-born children).
International Social Services, Hong Kong (handles inter-country adoptions for those in Hong Kong seeking to adopt, mainly from the following countries: India, the Philippines, Russia, Thailand and Mainland China).
Tel: 2834 6863