The government is looking into a system that will make it easier for people to adopt children living in institutions by allowing their natural parents to remain in touch, Family Minister Chris Said has said.
The Gozitan minister, who is himself an adoptive parent, has made it his mission to free more Maltese children in care for adoption.
The government is in the process of establishing what is keeping more Maltese children from being put up for adoption.
It will also consider introducing a so-called open adoption system, which would encourage natural parents to allow their children to be adopted while adoptive parents take legal responsibility. He said this system could be ideal for a small country like Malta.
“When the Prime Minister said I was to be responsible for social policy my thoughts went straight to adoption and how I could improve the system,” he said.
His eyes shimmered as he spoke about his family and recounted the journey that led him to become a father of three.
He and his wife Linda have two daughters – 13-year-old Anastasia and Andrea, six – whom they adopted from Russia. They also have a two-year-old son, Benjamin.
“We used to discuss adoption even if we had our children. For us it happened in reverse,” he smiled.
Dr Said has three goals that would help more children find a home. First, he wants to improve the local process by, for example, reducing the waiting time to attend the adoption course at Appoġġ – the government agency that handles adoptions.
Second, he is looking into changing policies and laws to free more Maltese children for adoption. Of the 175 children adopted since 2008, only 20 were Maltese.
“The law does not allow a child to be put up for adoption if the natural parents object. Natural parents have rights over their children, but they also have obligations. If they abdicate from them for a set number of years, perhaps the child should be adopted,” he said.
He is also working on reaching cross-country adoption agreements with other countries that are members of the Hague Convention that ensures there is no trafficking.
Overseas adoptions currently can take place from Albania, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Colombia, Ethiopia and Russia. Negotiations with the Philippines are ongoing.
Foreign adoptions became the centre of debate a few weeks ago when a Maltese Church-run orphanage in Ethiopia decided to limit adoptions to married couples. This was interpreted as a move to prevent gay couples from adopting.
Dr Said said Maltese law allowed both single people and married couples to adopt, and he believes the process should be open to anyone who is eligible.
The minister and his wife started discussing adoption when they had been married for several years but had no children. The couple had not actually made up their mind until a little Russian girl picked them as her new family.
Additional Resources on Child Adoption