Only three Maltese children were adopted last year, according to Family Minister Michael Farrugia. This statistic was given in reply to a question by The Malta Independent, asking the Minister about the current state of adoption of Maltese children, during a press conference yesterday at the Department of Social Welfare Standards.
“Adopting Maltese children is a possibility, in fact, last year we had three,” said the Minister, after giving statistics linked with foreign adoption. He also mentioned the additional case of a Maltese child who was in the process of being adopted, however the efforts fell through because of a law which states that the maximum age difference between the adoptee and adoptive parents cannot be more than 45 years.
Dr Farrugia mentioned the hurdles that come in the way of Maltese parents adopting Maltese children; namely the size of Malta and the lack of anonymity. “One can go to court and enforce that the adoption happens. However it will be very likely that the biological parents will know who adopted their child.”
Because of this situation, Dr Farrugia explained, the best way to go about it would be for the adoption to be an act which is done voluntarily by the biological parents. In light of this, the Minister spoke about his plans to introduce the concept of permanent fostering which he describes as “the first step” in the direction to improve adoption of Maltese children.
Permanent fostering will mean that the children still do not belong to the foster carers. However there will be more rights in place which will give the foster carers increased responsibility for decisions which they could take with regards the child.
The number of Maltese children adopted last year (three) is low, but so is the number of children adopted from abroad. Six children were adopted from foreign countries between January and December 2016.
In contrast, seven children have been adopted since January this year. According to Dr Farrugia, 30 couples have also “matched” with children and are currently undergoing the process of adoption. Out of the seven children adopted in 2017, four are from India and three from Slovakia. Last year Slovakia was also a popular country four adoptions, accounting for half of foreign adoptions.
Dr Farrugia also stated that the government has now reached agreements with Vietnam and Cambodia whilst adoption is now open in Chile. There are also discussions with Poland and preliminary talks with Latvia, the Czech Republic and Brazil.
The press conference was held to launch the ‘Child Adoption Credits’ scheme for adoptive parents, which, from yesterday, placed the rights of adoptive parents a step closer to the rights of biological parents. The scheme, targeted at parents who leave their jobs in order to raise and get to know the children they have adopted, will be “refunded” by the government in national insurance contributions for up to four years. This scheme, already in place for biological parents, will, from today, be put in place for adoptive parents.
Whilst biological parents benefit from the four-year NI credit scheme within a timeframe of six years following the child’s birth, adoptive parents will benefit from the same scheme and the same timeframe, however starting off from the date of adoption. The six-year timeframe is extended to ten years if the child has a disability.
The scheme has been developed specifically to encourage the “process of adopting parents to get to know and take care of their children,” said Dr Farrugia, as well as to further encourage the idea of adoption.