An adoption is a specific legal form of protection for a child whom is without proper parental care that creates a lasting relationship between the parent and the child and is regulated by the Family Act, section Adoption, in Articles 180 to 217.
By adopting, an inseparable relationship of kinship arises and all the rights and duties that result from it. The process of adoption is carried out in social welfare centers (called “Centar za socijalnu skrb” in Croatian).
Adoption of a child is possible by Croatian citizens as well as by foreign citizens if it is in the best interests of the child and with prior consent of the Ministarstvo za demografiju, obitelj, mlade i socijalnu politiku, the ministry responsible for social affairs.
A few things to know about adoption in Croatia
- Adoptors have the right to parental care.
- Adoption can only be based on compliance with the child’s well-being.
- A child has the right to know that they are adopted.
- An adopted child and their descendants have the right to inherit heritage from the adoptive parent, their blood relatives, and relatives by adoption.
- In adoption proceedings, brothers and sisters of the adopted child should also be adopted by the same adoptive parents if possible and if it’s in the best interest of the child.
A child can only be adopted if under the age of 18 years. The adoptive parent must be at least 21 years old. The age difference between the adopter and the adoptee must be at least 18 years.
If there are particularly justified reasons, the adoptive parent may be under 21 years old.
Conditions for Adopting
A child may be adopted by:
- A spousal couple together
- A non-married couple together
- One marital/non-married partner if his/her marital/non-married partner is a parent or adoptive parent of a child
- A marital/non-married partner with the consent of his marital/non-married partner
- A single person who is not in a marital or non-married relationship
The adoptive parent cannot be a person:
- Who has been deprived of the right to parental care
- Who has been deprived of ability to work
- Whose past behavior and characteristics indicate that he or she should not be entrusted with the parental responsibility of a child
How to Adopt a Child in Croatia
There are detailed procedures and particular documents required to adopt a child in Croatia. Below, we have described the process step by step.
Step #1 – Visit a Centar za socijalnu skrb (“social welfare center”) closest to your residence. Here you may start the application and gather all the necessary information about the procedure. The staff is usually quite friendly and extremely helpful. You will submit all paperwork and go through the process with this same center.
A list of social welfare centers can be found in the Adresar Ustanova od Ministarstva za demografiju, obitelj, mlade i socijalnu politiku (“Directory of institutions of the Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy”).
Step #2 – Prepare your official adoption request packet. This packet must include:
- Written application
- Request for the evaluation on suitability for adoption (called “Zahtjev za izdavanje mišljenja o podobnosti i prikladnosti”)
- Official documents
We will now review each part of this adoption request packet one by one.
Adoption Request Packet
Part 1. Written application (also referred to as a “letter of intent”)
For the letter of intent, it is beneficial to write from the heart. It should include:
- a statement of your intention to adopt
- the reasons why you want to adopt a child
- how many children you want to adopt
- what ages you would like to adopt
- how you decided to adopt
- essential contact information
- description of yourself (and partner, if applicable) along with your interests.
Part 2. Request for the evaluation on suitability for adoption (called “Zahtjev za izdavanje mišljenja o podobnosti i prikladnosti”).
This evaluation applies to physical, mental, legal, and social prerequisites that potential adopters must meet to adopt the child. Depending on which center you apply at, this may be an application form or a free form letter.
Part 3. Official documents
- Birth certificate for each potential adoptive parent
- Marriage certificate (for married couples)
- Proof you are in an unmarried relationship, which is proven with a court decision from Općinski sud
- Proof of citizenship
- The doctor’s confirmation of the psychophysical health condition – Make this request to your family doctor and tell them why you need it.
- Employer’s certificate of employment
- Evidence that there are no running criminal proceedings against the applicant and the members of the household. The list of criminal offenses is defined in Article 6 in the rule book on elements related to eligibility and adequacy for adoption, the content of expert’s opinion on suitability and fitness for adoption, methods for determining suitability, the content of child records, a register of potential adopters and the manner of maintaining a register of adoptions.
Step #3 – Assessment of the suitability and fitness for adopting for potential adoptive parents.
The Centar za socijalnu skrb will conduct an assessment. As part of this assessment, social workers, psychologists and lawyers will evaluate the data provided as part of the adoption application, the home visit, interviews with close relatives and friends and the results of psychological tests.
Step #4 – Complete the Program stručne pripreme za posvojenje edukacija (“Program of Professional Preparation for Adoption”).
Step #5 – After completing Steps 1 through 4, Centar za socijalnu skrb will give its opinion on the suitability for adoption within six months of the receipt of the written application. If the outcome of the evaluation is positive, you will gain the right to to be added to the register of potential adopters in the Republic of Croatia.
Step #6 – Centar za socijalnu skrb decides among the potential adopters in the register who to match with which child. They will choose the most suitable adoptive parent for each particular child, taking into account the characteristics and needs of the child.
When a child is matched with the most suitable potential parent, Centar za socijalnu skrb along with the person currently in charge of the child will prepare the child for adoption. As part of this preparation, the child will meet the selected adoptive parent(s) in in order to assess whether the adoption is in accordance with the child’s well-being.
Step #7 – If the adoption is approved, Centar za socijalnu skrb of will issue an official decision (called “Rješenje o posvojenju”).
Step #8 – Centar za socijalnu skrb is obligated to follow up after the adoption for six months from the date of adoption. The child and adoptive parents have the right to professional assistance and support after the adoption.
Other Adoption Scenarios
Adoption Process for Couples with Foreign Citizenship
Croatia is a party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption (also known as the “Hague Adoption Convention”). Which means if it’s in the best interest of the child, a couple from a foreign country can apply for adoption in Croatia.
If the adoptive parent is a foreign citizen, adoption can only be based on the prior approval of the Ministarstvo za demografiju, obitelj, mlade i socijalnu politiku (“Ministry of Social Policy and Youth”). The term “best interest” generally refers to the welfare of the child.
Such welfare is determined by various individual circumstances, such as:
- level of maturity of the child
- presence or absence of the parent
- the environment in which the child grows up
- development of the child
Adoption Process for Single People
While there is no official discrimination between couples and singles, it is unknowingly noticeable that couples still have a slight advantage and the Centar will preferably give a child to a family where they will have both father and mother. Despite this bias, the criteria for adopting children are the same for married couples as well as singles.
Adoption Process for Same-Sex Couples
Currently, there isn’t a law in Croatia that allows same-sex couples the right to adopt the child. The Family Law regulates adoption and also defines marriage and extramarital relationships as a community of women and men. Within this law, there is no recognition of same-sex couples.
The Act on the Life Partnership of Persons of the Same Sex does define same-sex couples and their respective rights, but it does not regulate adoption.
In practice, adoption requests by same-sex couples are declined. However, if one partner already has a child, then the other partner can request the status of the custodian.
Challenges of the Social Welfare System in Croatia
Currently, there are about 500 children in need of adoption. Ninety percent of them will not be adopted because they are older than 12 years or have development difficulties.
The biggest roadblock to adoption is that the Centari za socijalnu skrb where these children live have been too late in initiating the process to remove parental rights.
The existing family law has defined deadlines for parents to fix a situation so that the child can live with them again. This period of time, however, is often lengthened in the system, giving parents multiple chances, while the child is continues to live in an orphanage or with a foster family.
In 2018, around 85 children were adopted in Croatia, while in 2017 there were 126 children adopted. In 2018 over 3,000 children were with foster families or in orphanages.
According to HRT, the president of the Association for Adoption ADOPTA, Andreja Turčin, supports the acceleration of parental care deprivation procedures and introducing incentive measures to encourage more adoptions, especially for hard-to-adopt children including older children, minorities and children with disabilities.
Centar za socijalnu skrbu chooses the best adopter who can provide the best care for a child. Unfortunately, children who have been waiting for adoption for a while are children who are not desired by previously registered adoptive parents. Usually, those left behind are older and/or have health or developmental difficulties.
When adopting, the parent defines the type of child they want by age, gender, or ethnicity. Some people are ready to adopt a child regardless of health status, nationality, skin color, or age, and some are not. Specific requests are why some parents wait for a longer time, leaving more children in the system.
If you are interested in adopting, contact your nearest social welfare center today.