April 1, 2010
Last year 16 children were returned to the state-run institutions from where they were adopted, according to Idália Moniz, adjunct State-Secretary for Rehabilitation, who highlighted unexpected divorces as one of the main causes for their return.
There are currently 2,776 children in Portugal who are eligible for adoption (data from February 2010), 547 of whom State Secretary Moniz says ‘no one wants’ as they are older than three years of age, have siblings, are ill, or simply because of the colour of their skin.
Nevertheless last year fewer children were given back to the system than in 2009, when 20 adoptees were replaced into state care.
According to the State Secretary, the main reasons for adoptions being annulled occurs when couples realize they are not prepared to take on a child, an unexpected divorce occurs, or an agreement regarding custody could not be reached in the event of a divorce.
“Of the 2,493 candidates to be adoptive parents, 2,323 want a child under the age of three, 1,994 say they want a child with white skin, and only 464 say they don’t mind adopting a child with siblings”, Idália Moniz affirmed, explaining that adoption process takes so long for more than one reason.
Presently, officially confirming a child’s eligibility for adoption takes 60 days, while affirmation of candidates as parents is a nine-month procedure. Only 10 percent of children in care are adopted.
The Ministry of Work and Social Welfare implemented an Immediate Intervention Plan which aims to create lifelong projects to help these and other children who end up in state care.
In 2009, 12,579 children and young people were in state care, 1,331 fewer that in 2008. Of these 3,016 left the institution in 2009, with the districts of Oporto, Lisbon and Braga registering the highest exit rates, Beja and Portalegre the lowest re-homing rates. That year, 131 children ran away from institutions, the majority were 12-year-olds.
According to the 2009 Immediate Intervention Plan report, state institutions are taking in more 11 and 12-year-olds (61 percent), who are believed to have increasing behavioural problems.