The adoption process in Hong Kong is fairly straightforward. All local and inter-country adoptions in Hong Kong are administered by the Government's Social Welfare Department (SWD) and governed by the Adoption Ordinance, Cap 290.
Since Hong Kong is a Special Administration Region of China, and China is party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, all adoptions in Hong Kong must meet the requirements of the Convention. The Hague convention seeks to safeguard the interests of adopted children.
The first step in pursuing adoption in Hong Kong is to get in contact with the Social Welfare Department and to review their website. During the initial contact with SWD, applicants will likely be asked questions to determine their eligibility to adopt in Hong Kong. They may inquire about marital status, age, occupation and the duration of stay in Hong Kong before providing any further information. After that, an initial questionnaire will be sent to applicants to begin the formal adoption process.
To pursue adoption in Hong Kong, applicants must fulfil certain basic requirements before they can proceed:
1. Couples should meet the age requirements (one over 25, and the other over 21), and be mature and willing to make a lifelong commitment to adopting and raising a child in a stable environment.
2. Should be physically and mentally fit to raise a child until independence.
3. Should be reasonably well educated.
4. Should have been married for at least 3 years (the period is increased to five years if there have been multiple divorces).
5. Be gainfully employed and have sufficient financial means to take on the responsibility.
6. Must have resided in Hong Kong for more than 12 months and must be prepared to be based in Hong Kong for at least 12 more months or until the adoption process is completed. Local adoptions in Hong Kong can typically take between 12-24 months, though some local and inter-country adoptions can take significantly longer.
7. Should have no previous criminal record.
Once all of the information has been gathered and SWD is satisfied that your application meets the basic requirements, applicants are invited to a compulsory SWD briefing session which is conducted periodically.
At this briefing session, applicants are given further information about the process and are introduced to the three accredited NGOs (adoption agencies operating on a non-profit basis) which handle the adoption process in Hong Kong. Families in Hong Kong have the option of working directly with the Social Welfare Department for the adoption process, or to contract with one of these agencies. SWD’s services are provided free of charge, however a payment to SWD for the Director of Social Welfare Department acting as Guardian ad litem for the child applies at the end of the 6-month placement period. SWD generally does not provide post-adoption support services after the adoption finalisation.
The three NGOs accredited by the Social Welfare department of Hong Kong are listed below. Fees apply for their services; please check their websites for relevant charges.
Mother’s Choice handles foster care as well as local and inter-country adoptions, and works with several licensed agencies in the US. They hold free seminars on local adoption in Hong Kong; they also offer family activities and reunions, workshops, newsletters, and will provide post-adoption support.
Po Leung Kuk provides local adoption services for families living in Hong Kong, and works with two adoption agencies in the US and the government of Australia to provide adoptive homes for Hong Kong-born children. Po Leung Kuk provides individual consultation and counselling services and workshops for applicants and adoptive families.
Currently ISSHK facilitates inter-country adoptions for those in Hong Kong seeking to adopt, mainly from the following countries: India, the Philippines, Russia, and Thailand. They also assist foreign passport-holders living in Hong Kong to adopt from Mainland China, arrange for children in need to be adopted by relatives overseas, and assist with roots tracing for interested parties.
Before applicants can proceed with the adoption of a child in Hong Kong, they must undergo an application and home study process which is undertaken to assess suitability to become an adoptive parent. This home study is conducted by a social worker who is appointed by the agency and can take anywhere from four weeks to around six months.
This assessment covers the applicant's desire to adopt, marital stability and the capability to provide a nurturing home environment for a child. Applicants are also required to supply medical, financial records and references. Applicants residing in Hong Kong for less than 5 years will need to provide two overseas referees and one local referee. A background criminal check from the Hong Kong Police is also required for all applicants.
The application and home assessment process permits applicants to inform the agency of their gender preference and willingness or unwillingness to accept a child with special needs, and what types of special needs the applicants are willing to consider.
In Hong Kong, single people as well as married couples meeting all the eligibility criteria can adopt a child. In keeping with the Hague Convention’s guidelines, Hong Kong follows the practice of giving priority to place children with families from their ethnic and cultural background. Therefore generally Chinese children are prioritised to be placed with a Chinese family, a Filipino child will be given priority to be placed with a Filipino family, and so on.
After the home study is completed and formal approval has been granted by the Social Welfare Department, prospective adoptive parents are then entered into a pool of prospective adoptive parents to be matched with a child. Every three weeks, a matching panel meeting is held at the Social Welfare Department with all the social workers involved in the adoption process, to determine which adoptive parents are the best prospects for a child waiting for a match.
Once applicants have been matched, and agree to the match, they will likely visit the child for around 2 weeks in the facility where the child is currently residing to allow for a gradual transition and to begin a mutual bonding and attachment process. Then the child is placed in-home for six months before the adoption order is granted. Applicants are not allowed to travel out of Hong Kong with the child during this time as the child will not have any legal documents. Parents are highly discouraged from travelling and being away from the child during this initial crucial period of bonding and attachment, with only business or travel for emergency reasons being allowed with prior consent from SWD. During this six month period, the child's progress is monitored through regular interviews and visits, after which the adoption order is granted.
Adoption by parents who already have children or large families
Although small families are generally preferred, parents who already have large families are also eligible to adopt a child from Hong Kong though they may be subject to increased scrutiny during the home study process. Generally, the youngest child in a large family must be more than a year old, if the parents are considering adoption.
Aside from fees paid to the agencies, applicants will incur costs for medical, police and financial reports which are required for the home study process.
Concerning inter-country adoptions of Hong Kong children, the estimated cost is approximately $25,000 USD, and children are mostly older children or those with special needs.
In cases where the prospective adoptive mother has become pregnant during the adoption process, the social worker assigned should be informed immediately. The adoptive parents are generally encouraged to postpone the adoption, however it should be discussed with the caseworker to ascertain the arrangement which is in the best interests of the child waiting to be adopted.
Foreign passport holder or expatriates may have additional processes which need to be completed for citizenship or immigration purposes. Please check with your relevant Consulate before you start the adoption process for accurate information regarding any additional requirements.
The information provided here is specifically related to adoption administered by the HK authorities. Foreign nationals may be permitted to pursue international adoption according to their national regulations independent of the Hong Kong SAR Government whilst living in Hong Kong. Please refer to your consulate or National Government for all enquiries.
Regardless of what type of adoption one pursues, the adoption process can be stressful and complicated for adoptive parents, and adoption is ultimately a lifelong journey. Adoptive Families of Hong Kong provides support and guidance to adoptive families, prospective parents, adult adoptees, and professionals through seminars, talks and events. Please see our calendar of upcoming events and membership page for further information.
Information provided courtesy of Social Welfare Department, Mother’s Choice, Po Leung Kuk, International Social Services, and Geobaby. As procedures are constantly being revised, the accuracy of this information is not guaranteed. Please check with the relevant parties for the most accurate and up to date information.