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Can You Adopt a Refugee Child?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on August 28, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The current refugee crisis in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe has left many wondering how to help. Syrian refugees especially have been fleeing their homeland and making dangerous treks to Italy, Greece, and beyond.

Many efforts to help have been focused on adopting Syrian children, and while some adoption agencies have urged prospective parents to slow down, a lot of people want to go through with adopting a refugee child. If you are one of them, here are a few tips on how and where to start:

Know the Law

The United Nations has a strict policy on the adoption of refugee children, stressing that "refugee children in an emergency context are not available for adoption." The U.N.'s Commission for Refugees believes that keeping a child with relatives or extended family is often a better solution for the child's wellbeing than adoption.

Adoptions of refugee children will only be granted if it is in the child's best interests, and will not be allowed if:

  • There is reasonable hope for successful tracing and family reunification in the child's best interests.
  • A reasonable period (normally at least two years) has not yet elapsed during which time all feasible steps to trace the parents or other surviving family members have been carried out.
  • It is against the expressed wishes of the child or the parent; or voluntary repatriation in conditions of safety and dignity appears feasible in the near future and options in the child's country of origin would better provide for the psychosocial and cultural needs of the child than adoption in the country of asylum or a third country.

Know Your Options

Adoptions can be complicated, none more so than international adoptions. And a child's refugee status may make international adoption even more difficult.

Prospective parents should be aware of the additional rules, fees, and time associated with international adoption, and also be wary of adoption agencies that tout simple or inexpensive adoption processes. Given the U.N.'s stance on refugee adoption, those who wish to help refugee children may consider donating to a refugee family or giving to charities that specialize in refugee aid.

Before beginning any adoption process, especially an international adoption involving potentially refugee children, you should talk to an experienced adoption attorney.

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