Adoption is the process by which you become the legal parent of a child who is not your own. Adoptive parents are then the legal parents of the child. The moment you adopt a child, s/he no longer has any legal ties with his/her biological (birth) family.

In principle, in Germany you can adopt a child

  • who is already related to you,
  • whom you do not know and who is not related to you,
  • who comes from another country.

You can also adopt your partner's child.

A couple and their adopted child

Conditions for adoption in Germany

Lesbian women with their children

In order that a child may be adopted in Germany, the adoptive parents and the child's biological parents must be in agreement.

When you adopt a child, it is permanent. This means that you cannot give the child back if there are problems or if the child turns out to be different from what you imagined.

Homosexual couples can also adopt children in Germany under specific conditions.

Adopting a child

The adoption mediation law in Germany

In Germany, an adoption can only be mediated by certain organisations, such as youth welfare offices (Jugendamt) or recognised adoption agencies.

Who can adopt?

As a general rule, only married couples can adopt a child in Germany. In exceptional cases, single people can also adopt a child.

As a rule, a married couple can only adopt a child together. This means that both marriage partners must be prepared to look after the child.

You can also adopt a child if you already have children of your own.

Putting a child up for adoption

You must give your consent

A married couple or a single person can only adopt a child if the biological parents have given their consent. Moreover, a child must be at least 8 weeks old before s/he can be adopted. If you decide to have your child adopted, you should contact an adoption agency before your child is born. The adoption agency will also tell you what help is available to you.

You lose all rights

Adoption is permanent. Normally, adoption cannot be undone. If your child is adopted, you are legally no longer related to the child. You no longer have parental responsibilities for the child. In addition to this, you are no longer entitled to see or look after the child.

Normally, you do not find out where your child goes and who s/he is adopted by. This is important in order that the child can develop well without the new parent and child relationship in the adoptive family being hindered. However, you do receive a description of the adoptive parents' living conditions. This does not include the name and address of the adoptive parents. That being said, every child has the right to discover who his/her biological parents are. At 16 years of age, s/he can exercise this right for him/herself and ask to be shown the documents.

Right to advice

A couple receives advice

If you want to adopt a child or put your child up for adoption, you are entitled in Germany to be advised on the subject. Youth welfare offices (Jugendamt) and recognised adoption agencies have specially trained advisers who can help you with your decision. 

The adoption agency will also assess whether or not a couple is suitable to adopt a child. If the adoption agency decides that you can adopt a child, you will firstly take the child "into care" for some time. This entails the child living with you in your home. You may adopt the child only after this probationary period.

Adopting children from abroad

Germany and more than 60 other countries have specific child protection laws in place regarding international adoption. Children from abroad may only be adopted in Germany if it is not possible for them to be adopted in their country of origin.

Children from abroad who are not yet 18 whilst the adoption application is being processed, automatically receive German citizenship upon being adopted.

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