Call to relax adoption laws with more children waiting

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 May, 2011, 12:00am


The government has been urged to relax the rules for child adoption in Hong Kong as the number of children waiting for help keeps growing.

The city faces a shortage of qualified couples wishing to take in children who need permanent or temporary foster care. The number of children on the waiting list to receive foster care stood at 57 last month - about 40 per cent more than the average.

Many of these children ended up staying at centres run by welfare groups while waiting for suitable foster parents.

Mother's Choice chief executive officer David Youtz said it was increasingly difficult to find foster parents who met the government's criteria, given the changing family structure in Hong Kong.

For a start, the authorities prefer the couple to have one spouse not working, so he or she can take care of the child full time. But this has become less common in Hong Kong these days.

'Hong Kong has more working parents than before. Even for their own children, [Hong Kong parents] tend to hire maids to take care of them,' Mother's Choice foster care supervisor Lau Siu-cho said.

Expat couples have traditionally accounted for a large share of foster parents in Hong Kong. There were more than 100 adoptions last year and a quarter of them involved expat couples. But the stringent travel requirement for foster care has turned away many potential expat couples.

While it is possible for an expat couple to take their foster children overseas, it requires permission from either the birth parents or the government acting as the children's guardian before they can do so.

Demand for both permanent adoption and temporary foster care is both growing at the same time. Many children require temporary care as their parents are considered unfit for the time being to take care of their children due to illness, divorce, imprisonment, drug problems or other issues.

Some children born to mainland women were abandoned after the mother failed to get a permit to come to Hong Kong and the father did not want to take up the responsibility.

Lau said Mother's Choice was urging the government to be more flexible about granting fostering applications, such as accepting more mothers working part time.

It also asked the government to increase the subsidies given to foster parents to match inflation. Parents receive HK$4,608 a month from the administration. That figure had only been increased by a meagre HK$20 a year for the past few years. The group said travel requirements for expat couples should also be relaxed.