There are three official languages in Belgium - Dutch, French and German, and also three language communities: Flemish, French and German. The prospective adopters with habitual place of residence in Belgium who would like to adopt a child with habitual place of residence in a foreign country, should seek assistance from an accredited intermediary intercountry adoption agency or from the Community Central Authority correspondent to their place of residence. There are accredited intermediary agencies only in the Flemish community and the French community in Belgium. Based on an agreement between the governments of the French community and the German community in Belgium, the candidate-adopters from the German community who would like to adopt a child use the services of the intermediary agencies from the French community, and the government of the German community provides them with an interpreter, if needed. The candidates residing in the Capital Region of Brussels can choose between the intermediary services provided in the French community or the Flemish community. Some exceptions are possible in cases of adopting a family member, in which case the procedure can be completed without the intermediation of an accredited agency. However, there are some other specific requirements in this case: adopters from the French community have to complete some training through the Community Central Authority and the adoption procedures of adopters from the Flemish community have to be supervised by an accredited intermediary agency or the Community Central Authority.
Step-by-step description of the process of adoption from Bulgaria:
- The Belgian accredited agency sends to “Family National Association” the dossier of the candidate-adopters, which includes all the documents required for their registration;
- Once the dossier has been received and translated, our team prepares a petition, which is filed to the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice along with the candidate-adopters’ dossier. The candidates get inscribed in the register, which is a list of the waiting prospective adopters with active status. The inscription in the register takes place within a 2-month period following the receipt of the candidates’ documents at “Family National Association”, provided that the documents are in the legally required form.
- The waiting period for a referral starts from the moment the candidates get registered. The waiting period varies in each specific case. It depends on the characteristics of the children, who are available for adoption at the time (for instance, age, gender, health condition) and on the characteristics of waiting candidate-adopters (namely, their general preferences, desired age of the child, the number of waiting candidates).
- The Intercountry Adoption Council reviews the applications following the order of their registration and refers the children to the candidates who are suitable for them. Once a child is referred for adoption, a package of documents is prepared, which is referred to as “referral”. Those documents are provided to “Family National Association”, who arrange their translation and then send them on to the partnering agency, who then send them on to the competent Central Authority. The package includes a referral certificate, a certificate with a full-length photo of the child and a detailed report about the child, which is prepared in accordance with Art.16 of the Hague Convention. The Belgian accredited agency provides the referral to the prospective adopters only after the Central Authority has confirmed that the following principal rules have been observed in view of their approval of the referral for a specific child: the child has to be adoptable and in need of adoption; the characteristics of the referred child should be correspondent to the candidates’ eligibility; the adoption should comply with the child’s rights and best interest; the candidates should be suitable adopters for a child with such characteristics.
- The next step is for the candidates to meet the child. The meetings with the child take place for 5 working days. During that time a specialist from our team accompanies the candidate-adopters and provides translation services and support to them.
- If the candidates refuse to adopt the child, the waiting period for a referral starts all over again. However, they could keep their position in the register in case they have not been informed about some significant health issues the child has, if the characteristics of the child referred to them do not correspond to the preferences they have stated, or in case they have applied to adopt a special needs child and subsequently they decided not to adopt that child.
- If the candidates want to proceed with the child’s adoption, they should sign the necessary paperwork, which is provided by “Family National Association”, and that usually happens while they are in Bulgaria. In order for the adoption procedure to continue, the Community Central Authority in Belgium has to issue their consent for the continuation of the procedure.
- After that the dossier is sent to the Sofia City Court. An attorney from our team represents the candidates before the court and performs all procedural actions by the time the court decree for the adoption becomes legally effective.
- Once the court decree becomes legally effective (7 days following the court hearing), “Family National Association” assist the candidates with obtaining a certificate of compliance under Art.23 of the Hague Convention, a new birth certificate and a passport of the child.
- The adopters should travel to Bulgaria so as to pick up their child and complete the process of passport issuance and obtaining permission for the adopted child to enter and permanently reside in Belgium. For that purpose the final documents regarding the adoption are presented at the competent embassy of Belgium, in the legally required form, so that the child would be allowed to enter and permanently reside on the territory of Belgium. As per the Belgian regulations, the child could not enter Belgium or obtain a Belgian passport, visa or citizenship, before the decree of the foreign authority is acknowledged by the Federal Central Authority. The adopted child acquires Belgian citizenship as soon as the adoption is acknowledged by the Federal Central Authority of Belgium, provided that at least one of the adopters has Belgian nationality. Following the approval of the Federal Central Authority, the Belgian Ministry of Interior (Foreigners Department) sends a Directive to the Consular office of Belgium in the sending country and they issue a Belgian passport for the child or enclose a visa in the child’s international passport that has been issued by the sending country. In the first 15 days following the child’s arrival in Belgium the accredited intermediary agency (or the Community Central Authority) should confirm that all requirements have been kept and all the necessary documents in relation to that have been issued.
- “Family National Association” should receive a total of 4 post-adoption reports regarding the child’s development and condition – each of them is to be sent at every 6 months, for 2 years following the admission of the adoption;
The candidate-adopters with habitual place of residence in Belgium need to obtain the following documents in view of their inscription in the register of prospective adopters with habitual place of residence abroad:
- Permission for adoption – referred to as “judgment of suitability” and issued by the competent family court correspondent to the place of residence of the candidate-adopters;
- Document, certifying that the candidate-adoptive parents have not been deprived of their parental rights, issued by the Federal Public Justice Service in the form of an extract type 2 from the Criminal Records;
- Home study report - prepared by a social worker at the Community Central Authority in the French community or by a social worker at the accredited intermediary organization in the Flemish community;
- Updated Home study report or a document certifying the lack of any changes in the circumstances described in the report – the authority competent to issue this document is the same authority that prepares the initial Home study report;
- A document regarding the adopters’ health condition – issued by a Doctor of Medicine;
- Documents regarding the adopters’ criminal record - issued by the Federal Public Justice Service in the form of certificates.
- Marriage certificate (for married candidate-adopters) – issued in the form of an extract from the Population register;
- Authorization of representation from the candidate-adoptive parents to the Bulgarian accredited organization which represents them;
- Declaration of Information from the candidate-adopters under Art.20, clause 10 of Ordinance No.2/24.10.2014;
- Declaration from the candidate-adopters regarding the characteristics of the child they would like to adopt and their motivation for adoption;
Requirements for Candidates
Requirements towards the candidate-adopters as per the Belgian legislation:
The requirements towards candidate-adopters are common for the three communities.
Married couples (including same-sex couples), couples in registered partnerships (including same-sex couples), cohabiting couples (including same-sex couples) who have been living together for minimum 3 years as of the time of filing an application for adoption, as well as single persons, are permitted to apply to adopt a child.
The minimal age for candidate-adopters with habitual place of residence in Belgium is 25 years. In case of adoptee is a biological child of the adopter or the child of their spouse or cohabiting partner, the minimal age for the candidate-adopters is 18 years. The adopters should be at least 15 years older than the adopted child and at least 10 years older that the adopted child in cases of adoption of a biological child of the adopter or the child of their spouse or cohabiting partner. No maximum age of the prospective adopters or a maximum age difference between the adopters and the children have been determined at the federal level. Despite that, in practice the French community has introduced a requirement for a maximum age difference of 45 years between the adopters and the adopted children.