Adopting a Child in Singapore

  • Personal Legal Procedures
Adopting a Child in Singapore

Adoption of a child can be defined as a legal process where the biological parents’ legal rights and responsibilities are transferred to the adoptive parents. As such, the child will enter a new parent-child relationship, wherein the adoptive parents now have the legal parental responsibilities the biological parents had previously.

In Singapore, the Adoption of Children Act 1939 governs the adoption of children, while the Ministry of Social and Family Development or MSF administers it. Adoption can be a complex process, and the whole process must be done in court. 

Eligibility for Adoption

Under the Adoption of Children Act sections 3 and 4, the following are required of a child to be eligible for adoption:

  • The child must be below 21 years of age;
  • The child cannot have been married before, even if the marriage has ended due to annulment, death, or divorce; and
  • The child must either be a Singaporean citizen or permanent resident, or be allowed to enter Singapore on a Dependant’s Pass.

To adopt a child in Singapore, on the other hand, the applicant must meet the following requirements:

  • The applicant must be 25 years of age or above;
  • If two people apply, both applicants must be 25 years of age or above;
  • For joint applicants, the parties must be married to each other;
  • If an individual is married and wishes to adopt alone, the spouse’s consent is needed;
  • A minimum age difference of 21 years between the applicant and the child to be adopted is needed;
  • The age gap between the applicant and the child to be adopted should not exceed 50 years;
  • The applicant must be a Singapore resident;
  • Single males are not typically allowed to adopt a girl.

Under section 4(2) of the act, exceptions may be made when a child is the applicant’s blood relative, or when the court finds unique circumstances that call for the adoption.

Duration of the process

Oftentimes, adoptive parents are anxious to find out how long it takes for an adoption to be finalised. The answer varies as it depends on the case’s unique circumstances and complexities. Generally, however, an adoption takes anywhere from six to nine months from the time that they appoint a Guardian-in-Adoption or GIA. There are several factors that can make a difference in this timeline though, like whether the child is a foreign child or a Singaporean citizen.

If the child to be adopted is from a foreign country, the process entails several more steps. Once these requirements have been fulfilled, the adoptive parents may then apply for a Dependant’s Pass so they can bring the child into Singapore prior to the commencement of the adoption process.

Foreign adoptions involve different rules from different countries. In The People’s Republic of China, for instance, child identification must be done via the China Centre for Children’s Welfare and Adoption. The adoptive parent applicants must also meet all requirements outlined by the PRC, and legalise the adoption in China before bringing the child to Singapore to legalise the adoption there.

If you wish to adopt a foreign child, you must also first complete a Home Study Report, which assesses your readiness and suitability to adopt. This process can take roughly five weeks, and along with the Dependant’s Pass from the MSF, is necessary before bringing the child to Singapore.

The legal process

When it comes to the adoption process, the legal steps to be taken are dependent on whether the child to be adopted is a Singapore permanent resident or citizen, or a foreign child.

Attending a pre-adoption briefing

Any person or persons wishing to adopt a local or foreign child must attend a mandatory pre-adoption briefing conducted by an agency accredited by the MSF. This is the first step to take in the adoption process. Here, the adoption process will be explained to the applicants in detail.

Identifying a child to adopt

You may then identify the child you wish to adopt—whether it be a stepchild, a relative, or otherwise. You may also opt to look into adopting a child in the Ministry of Social and Family Fostering Scheme, or identifying a child via an agency.

Obtaining a Home Study Report

Should you wish to adopt a child in MSF care, you must obtain a satisfactory Home Study Report prior to being a matched with a child from the MSF.

If you are adopting a foreign child, a Home Study Report will also be needed as a first step in the process. This report has a two-year validity, and you may identify a child to adopt during this period.

In other scenarios, this home investigation is to be conducted during the court process.

Getting consent and obtaining the child’s documents

You must acquire the notarised consent of the child’s biological parents prior to applying to adopt. If you are not able to get consent from the child’s biological parents, you must obtain consent from any of the following:

  • The legal guardian of the child;
  • The person with actual custody of the child;
  • The person legally liable to support the child;
  • The biological parent’s parents or guardian—if the biological parents are below 21 years of age.

When signing the consent form, the parents agree that all their duties, rights, obligations, and liabilities to the child are terminated as soon as an adoption order is made.

If you are not able to obtain notarise consent from any of the above-mentioned individuals, you may opt to approach Family Court and apply to do without the consent. If there are special circumstances that warrant it, then the court may dispense with the consent.

If the child is a permanent resident, you will also need to acquire the child’s passport and identification documents.

Applying for a Dependant’s Pass

If you have identified a foreign child to adopt, you must apply for a Dependant’s Pass prior to bringing the child to Singapore.

In order to get a Dependant’s Pass, you need notarised consent and the identification documents of the child. After which, the MSF can issue an in-principle approval for a Dependant’s Pass, as well as the child’s entry visa into Singapore.

Prior to bringing the child to Singapore, the adoptive parents must go to the child’s country if needed to meet any adoption requirements that the country may have. The MSF will then issue the Dependant’s Pass to the parents upon arrival.

Approaching Family Court

You may approach Family Court as soon as your documents are in order and you have filed an Originating Summons for Adoption, whether on your own or through the assistance of a lawyer.

From this step onwards, the process is the same for both Singapore-born and foreign children.

Appointing a Guardian-in-Adoption

The Family Court will appoint a GIA or Guardian-in-Adoption to act as the child’s temporary legal guardian.

The GIA’s role is to safeguard the child’s legal interests, to observe all the circumstances surrounding the adoption, and to report to the court.

Only after the applicant has complied with all legal requirements will the court grant the adoption—if it is in the child’s best interests.

Attending interviews by the MSF child welfare officers

To prepare a report for the court, the GIA will perform home visits and investigations. You are required to comply and cooperate, attend any interviews, and provide the GIA with all information required of you.

Court hearing and outcome

The court’s primary consideration is the child’s interests and welfare. Prior to making any orders, the court must consider several factors—such as whether the adoptive parents can financially support the child, and whether they can provide the child with a loving environment to grow up in.

The court will look into whether the child’s parents or guardians completely understand the meaning of the consent they have given and the fact that they are permanently renouncing their rights over the child. The court will also have to ensure that no amount of money was exchanged in relation to the adoption.

Once the court has considered all the evidence, they may opt to do any of the following:

  • Dismiss the application;
  • Postpone the adoption proceedings to give the applicant time to present more evidence to strengthen their case in court;
  • Make an interim order that places the child in custody of the applicant for a probation period. In this scenario, the child remains under the supervision of the GIA;
  • Make a conditional order that allows the adoption but imposes specific terms and conditions;
  • Allow an unconditional adoption order that enables the applicant to legally adopt the child with absolutely no conditions.

The adopted child’s registration and citizenship

A new birth certificate for the child will be issued as soon as the adoption order is granted.

Note that adoption does not instantly give Singapore citizenship to the child. Rather, the child must obtain citizenship by applying for so with the Immigration and Checkpoint Authority.

Statutory declaration and consequences of illegal action in obtaining a child for adoption

If you are a prospective adoptive parent, you must sign a declaration acknowledging that the adoption order may be set aside if you are convicted of any offence in acquiring possession of the child for adoption in Singapore. You may also be liable for prosecution.

You must also declare that the natural parents gave up the child for adoption out of their own free will.

It must also be mentioned that it is the adoptive parents’ responsibility to ensure that the child was not trafficked or illegally brought to Singapore for adoption.

Adoption costs

According to the Adoption of Children Act section 11, it is illegal to make or receive any payment for adoption unless authorised by the court.

The court, for instance, may allow for the payment of hospital bills, medical fees, travel costs, lodging and food for both the birth mother and child, and other such expenses that may be reimbursed to the mother. It is also possible for there to be professional fees that are payable to an adoption agency for child placement services, as well as administrative fees such as notarisation fees.

Some examples of fees to be incurred throughout the adoption process include:

  • Adoption agency fees in order to identify a child;
  • Flights to either identify or visit the child;
  • Application for a Dependant’s Pass;
  • Obtaining the child’s visa;
  • Getting the child’s Singapore birth certificate;
  • Obtaining a Home Study Report;
  • Applying for citizenship and certificate;
  • Legal fees; and
  • Reimbursement for the mother’s pre-natal, post-natal, and hospital expenses.

You are required to provide to Family Court a full breakdown of costs incurred throughout the duration of the adoption process, and provide proof of these payments in original form.

The Adoption of Children Act section 5(c) states that prior to legalising the adoption, the court must first approve any payments made to the birth parents.

Conclusion

Adopting a child in Singapore is no easy feat. There are understandably numerous rules and guidelines in place to protect the best interests of all parties involved—but most especially the child’s best interests.

If you are considering adopting a child, be sure that you understand and follow the correct process. Seek help from an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer if needed.