Expert authority – monitoring adoption operations
The Adoption Board is an expert authority that oversees adoptions in Finland in a number of ways. The oversight covers the experiences and needs of adoptees, their biological parents and their adoptive families in adoption services.
Oversight of trends in adoption operations is the responsibility of the plenary session, which meets 4 or 5 times per year. The plenary session comprises all members of all sections. In addition, a necessary number of members representing the authorities and organisations operating within the field of operation of the Adoption Board, and other members appointed to the section, are appointed to attend the plenary session. The plenary session includes representatives of adoption authorities and other authorities dealing with the matters of adoptive families and adoptees in their work, experiential experts, adoptees, adoptive families and expert organisations providing services to those wishing to have children. This broad-based composition facilitates the gaining of a wide range of information.
The plenary session engages in both programmed and reactive oversight of adoption operations and issues statements to improve those operations as required. In the current term of the Adoption Board (2022–2027), the plenary session is focusing particularly on developments in post-adoption support, seeking to promote the leveraging of the expertise of adult adoptees for improving adoption operations in Finland.
As a member of the network of central authorities under the Hague Adoption Convention, the Adoption Board also monitors international trends in adoption operations. The Adoption Board encourages the processing of and public debate in Finland on the recommendations issued to signatories of the Hague Convention.
The Adoption Board also produces information and makes itself available in public debate on adoption. The Board’s basic duties include providing information on Finland’s adoption system, the principles of adoption operations and legislation. The Board gives guidance for the adoption processes of adoptees aged under 18 and refers inquirers to the appropriate authorities as needed. The Board receives some 500 questions about adoption every year.
The child’s interests in adoption
In adoption decisions concerning minors, the rights of the child are paramount. Finland’s Adoption Act, the Hague Adoption Convention and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child require authorities to give precedence to the best interests of the child in adoption-related decisions. The status of a child for whom adoption is considered as an option must be investigated and meticulously documented.
When the competent authorities make an adoption decision, they must be confident that the child is free to be adopted and ensure that the adoptee will have a safe and stable family. The child must be guaranteed favourable circumstances for wellbeing and balanced development. Also, for each individual adoption it must be established before the adoption is confirmed that for the child to join the family in question is in the child’s best interests, in view also of the individual needs of the child.
The best interests of the child are safeguarded in the adoption process, which is rooted in the Adoption Act and international conventions. What is crucial is that adoptions are executed with the approval of and under the supervision of the competent authorities. Prospective adoptive parents must have a valid adoption permission and must have undergone adoption counselling preparing them for adoptive parenthood.
In intercountry adoptions, the best interests of the child require that the potential for domestic adoption be investigated first (subsidiarity principle). If there are no options for domestic adoption, then a child without a family may be considered for adoption to another country. In such cases, the best interests of the child are overseen by the adoption authorities in both the country of origin and the country of destination.