New Greek laws on adopting and fostering children, which were instituted in May of 2018, aim to make the once notoriously onerous procedures less time-consuming and difficult.
At the same time, the new laws have changed the legal framework of homes for orphaned children, and the very institutions themselves.
Law 4538/2018 simplifies adoption procedures and the registering of orphaned children by eliminating many bureaucratic steps. It also changes the prerequisites needed for prospective parents, while at the same time adding important tools for child protection.
In the past, an adoption in Greece could take up to six years due to incredible amounts of red tape, and the long waiting period often forced prospective foster parents to resort to illegal methods. Under the current law, the new, streamlined adoption procedures will take only a total of eight to twelve months.
The new articles and amendments to Greek adoption law include a maximum waiting period for the various phases of adoption procedures. In addition, research into the social background of prospective parents and the making of the required reports will be performed by certified social workers.
For the first time, it will be possible for parents who already have children to adopt as well. Couples must also be married for three years before they can adopt a child, regardless of their ability to have their own children.
Also for the first time, people who live together, but are not married, can adopt children; however, this can only occur after court approval.
In order to adopt, a person must be at least 30 years of age, but under the age of 60. In addition, the minimum age difference between a foster parent and child should be eighteen years. Only in very exceptional cases, the difference may be limited to fifteen years, if, for instance, there is an adoption of a child from a previous marriage of the spouse.
Adoption of a minor child requires the consent of its natural parents, which is given to the court, and only in exceptional cases is the consensus replaced by a court order (when the parent is mentally ill or the child is exposed to danger).
When the adopted child becomes twelve years old, he or she must also consent to the adoption. However, the court may take into account the child’s opinion, if even younger than twelve, taking into account his or her level of maturity in each case.
The adopted child will not maintain any family ties with his/her natural parents, nor can they inherit assets from their natural parents. This does not apply to the adoption of a child of one’s spouse.
At the same time, an adopted child can inherit assets from his/her foster parents and they will enjoy full inheritance rights just like natural children. They can also inherit the estates of relatives of their adoptive parents, including grandparents, aunts or uncles.
Contrary to previous laws, adopted children can learn who their natural parents are once they come of age. For third parties, the adoption is governed by absolute secrecy.
Private adoptions, which are made by mutual consent of foster parents and natural parents, are permitted. Adoption of an adult person is prohibited, although exceptions apply for the children of spouses.
The three types of adoption in Greece
Adoption through state institution
In state adoptions, the interested parties should contact the Mitera Infant Center. The institution belongs to the Center for Social Welfare of the Region of Attica, and cooperates with parents who wish to adopt a child from a state institution.
This includes the “Pepelis” (ex PIKPA), where there are younger children, as well as the churches Aghios Andreas and Aghia Varvara, which take care of school and teenage children. In Northern Greece, interested parties can contact Aghios Stylianos Municipal Nursery, located in Thessaloniki.
In cases where biological parents come in contact with candidate foster parents (either while the natural mother is pregnant or after birth), without the involvement of a social organization, both the biological and the candidate should announce their intention within a reasonable time from the birth of the child.
They then collect the supporting documents and file the application form with the Social Welfare Center of their region in order to start the proceedings. In such cases, placement is often made without social service intervention. There have been cases where foster children stay with families that are not suitable and their removal is almost impossible after the biological parent has consented.
If the person concerned wishes to adopt a child from another country, the competent authority is again the Center for Social Welfare of the Region, as well as the Central Authority for Transnational Adoptions at the Ministry of Labor. The Welfare Center first suggests state institutions. Interested parties are required to attend an information session before they apply. All procedures after that point depend on their own country’s laws on adoption.