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Adoption Bill proposes priority for locals; stronger safeguards for welfare of adopted children

SINGAPORE — Those who wish to adopt a child will first be assessed for their suitability while foreigners will face tighter adoption rules, if a new Bill is passed by Parliament.

Adoption Bill proposes priority for locals; stronger safeguards for welfare of adopted children
  • The Adoption of Children Bill, which was introduced in Parliament on Monday, seeks to repeal the existing Act
  • The proposed amendments aim to provide adopted children with a loving, safe and stable environment
  • The Bill proposes that all prospective adopters go through a suitability assessment
  • Eligibility requirements will also give priority to Singapore citizens and permanent residents in the adoption process
  • Applicants convicted of serious crimes will be barred from adopting children

SINGAPORE — Those who wish to adopt a child will first be assessed for their suitability while foreigners will face tighter adoption rules, if a new Bill is passed by Parliament.

The new Adoption of Children Bill, which was introduced in Parliament on Monday (April 4), is aimed at strengthening safeguards and ensuring that children identified for adoption are placed in a loving, safe and stable environment.

In addition, the Bill seeks to repeal the existing Adoption of Children Act which was passed in 1939 and last amended substantially more than three decades ago.

In Singapore, couples may go through the state or an adoption agency to adopt a child.

On average, about 400 adoption applications are filed in Singapore yearly, with fewer than 10 applications for children in state care — those who are assigned to foster care or a residential care service by the authorities.

Under the new Bill, people with serious convictions such as for sexual or violence-related offences will be barred from adopting children.

The draft legislation also clarifies the circumstances in which the courts may dispense with consent from the biological parents to authorise an adoption.

The following are some of the proposed amendments in the new Bill:

PROPOSED AMENDMENTS

Priority for Singaporeans and permanent residents

The Bill proposes to prioritise locals for adoptions in Singapore. It will do so by tightening the residency requirements for adoption applicants.

Sole applicants must be either a citizen or permanent resident. For joint applications, at least one applicant must be a citizen, or both applicants must be permanent residents.

“This will better ensure that Singapore does not become an adoption hub of convenience,” said the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) in a press release last week. Residency requirements may be relaxed if there are exceptional circumstances.

There are about 20 applications by foreigners yearly for adoption.

All prospective adopters to be assessed for suitability

The proposed amendments will require all prospective adopters, regardless of their relation to the child, to be assessed for their suitability when applying for adoption.

Their suitability will be assessed based on the adopter’s parenting capacity, their financial stability and their ability to interact with the child, among other things.

Only those with a favourable assessment can file an adoption application in court.

Currently, only those who are adopting an unrelated foreign child or a child in state care must undergo pre-adoption assessment.  

Additionally, the Bill will also provide guidance on the suitability criteria for prospective adopters.

To this end, adoption agencies, the Guardian-in-Adoption and the court must consider various factors.

These would include taking into account public policies, such as the policy against the formation of same-sex units, as well as public policy against planned and deliberate single parenthood through the use of surrogacy or Assisted Reproduction Technology.

Adopters who falsely declare their suitability status will face penalties.

Mandatory briefings for adopters

Under the amendments, prospective adopters will need to attend a pre-adoption briefing, where they will be informed of adoption-related matters such as the adoption process, the eligibility criteria and legal implications.

In addition, they will have to attend a disclosure briefing before they can go ahead with the adoption process.

The briefing will explain to adopters how to disclose in an appropriate manner to their child that he or she is adopted.

It will also explain how adopters can support their adopted children in embracing their adoptive status, said MSF.

It will not be mandatory for adopters to inform their child of their adoption status.

Barring applicants convicted of serious crimes from adoption

To ensure the safety and protection of adopted children, the Bill proposes that applicants convicted of serious crimes be barred from adopting children.

Currently, such prospective adopters are barred on a case-by-case basis.

The subsidiary legislation will spell out which offences are considered serious crimes such as sexual abuse, violence and drug offences.

However, MSF said that exceptions can be made if the court determines that there are exceptional circumstances to approve the adoption, such as if the prospective adopter committed an offence more than 10 years ago and has reformed.

Greater clarity on when court can dispense with birth parents’ consent

The proposed law provides more clarity on the circumstances in which the courts can dispense with the consent of the biological parents in the adoption process.

The dispensation of biological parents' consent is favoured in scenarios where children placed in foster care or a children’s home have parents who are unfit or unwilling to care for them.

While adoption will provide such children with a safe, stable and loving family to grow up in, some couples may face challenges in adopting these children if their birth parents do not consent to the adoption.

Thus, greater clarity on the grounds on which the courts can dispense with consent will facilitate the adoption of these children.

Such grounds include cases where the birth parents intentionally caused grievous hurt to the child or have failed to provide suitable care for the child over a prolonged period, causing the child to be in need of care and protection.

Greater regulation of the adoption sector

To deter undesirable behaviours in the adoption sector, the Bill proposes to criminalise behaviour that compromises the child’s welfare.

Such behaviour includes advertising children for adoption, fraudulently inducing birth parents to consent to their child’s adoption and providing false or misleading information during the adoption process.

To encourage transparency in the sector, the Bill will also require all adoption agencies to publish information on their fees.

Related topics

adoption parenting MSF Parliament

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