Adoption, guardianship, and replacement care

Adoption, guardianship, and replacement care (in foster families, children’s homes, and substitute homes) allow children who, for some reason, cannot grow up with their birth family, to grow up in another family that is suitable for them. After the end of replacement care, it is possible to receive a continued care service that supports young people in coping independently and continuing their studies.

Adoption

Adoption is a legal act that provides identical rights and obligations for the adopting person and the adopted person to those arising from the biological birth of a child. Adoption is unconditional, indefinite, and irreversible. Adoption cannot be annulled and it can only be declared invalid under very few circumstances.

Adoption must always serve the best interest of the child and only minors whose parent(s) has/have consented to adoption, is/are deceased, or has/have been deprived of custody may be adopted. When making a decision on adoption, the child’s opinion and wishes are identified.

A person with full active legal capacity who has attained at least 25 years of age may be an adoptive parent. A court may, as an exception, allow a person who has attained at least 18 years of age to adopt if they adopt their spouse’s child or if there is any other good reason for adoption. A single person may adopt a child only alone. Married persons may adopt a child jointly. A child may be adopted also by only one spouse if they adopt the child of the other spouse or the other spouse cannot adopt because they have restricted active legal capacity.

Adoption is regulated by the Family Law Act. The acts relating to the preparation for adoption are performed by the Social Insurance Board (domestic as well as international adoption). With questions relating to adoption (as well as questions relating to finding information about your origin), you should turn to a specialist from the Social Insurance Board.

A court will decide on adoption on the basis of the application of an adopting person.

You can read more about adoption on the website of the Social Insurance Board. There, you can also find the contact information of specialists who are involved in adoption.

Adoption allowance is a one-time allowance that is paid to the adopting person. The adoption allowance is 320 euros in 2018. When adopting a child who is under ten years of age, it is possible to use a holiday of up to 70 days provided by the certificate for care leave, on the basis of which the allowance is paid. To receive adoption allowance, please fill out an application for family allowance in the State Portal. The court ruling on adoption has to be added to the application.

You can also submit the application for the allowance:

  • digitally signed, via e-mail to info@sotsiaalkindlustusamet.ee
  • by mailing it to Endla 8, 15092 Tallinn
  • in the customer service offices of the Social Insurance Board.

International adoption does not include adoption within the family if the new spouse of the child’s mother or father adopts the child within the family. International adoption means that a child who is living in one country permanently moves to another country to live with an adopting person from another country.

Adoption from Estonia to a foreign country may only occur under exceptional circumstances – if it is not possible to care for the child to the necessary extent in the Republic of Estonia.

The Social Insurance Board organises international adoption and the work of the committee for international adoptions. If the residence of the adoptive parent or the child is not in Estonia, a court can only decide on the adoption of the child to a foreign country with the consent of the committee for international adoptions.

Guardianship

The guardianship of a minor is awarded to protect the child’s personal and proprietary rights and interests. A guardian will be appointed to a child if the parents do not have the right of representation or the origin of the child cannot be determined.

A guardian can be an adult natural person with full active legal capacity. A person who has been fully or partially deprived of the parent’s right of custody or who has previously violated the obligations of a guardian cannot be a guardian. A person may be appointed guardian only with their consent.

A court decides on establishment of guardianship on its own initiative or on the basis of an application of a rural municipality or city government or an interested person. A court may address a rural municipality or city government to find a person suitable to act as a guardian.

A guardian may be appointed also before the birth of a child if there is reason to presume that the child needs a guardian after birth. Appointment enters into force as of the birth of the child.

A guardian has the right of custody over both the person and property of the child. A guardian cannot transfer performance of their duties to a third person. Guardians are the legal representatives of persons under guardianship and they have the right and obligation to care for the person and property of the person under their guardianship within the limits of their duties.

If a suitable person is not found to be a guardian, a legal person may be appointed a guardian. The legal person must engage in seeking guardians who are natural persons for the persons under guardianship and provide advice and training to the guardians. Until the appointment of a guardian, the duties of a guardian will be performed by the rural municipality or city government of the child’s place of residence entered in the population register; in the absence of this, the duties will be performed by the rural municipality or city government of the place where the child usually resides.

A special guardian can be appointed to a child that is under the care of a parent or who has been appointed a guardian, to perform the acts that the parent or the guardian cannot.

Courts exercise supervision over the activities of guardians.

A child that is under guardianship has the right to all family allowances and guardianship allowance. To receive the allowance, please fill out an application for family allowance in the State Portal.

You can also submit the application for the allowance:

  • digitally signed, via e-mail to info@sotsiaalkindlustusamet.ee
  • by mailing to Endla 8, 15092 Tallinn
  • In the customer service offices of the Social Security Board.

Replacement care

Replacement care is performed in three ways – in foster families, children’s homes, or substitute homes – until the child turns 18.

Replacement care is provided as a twenty-four-hour service to a child whose parent has passed away, if the parent has been appointed a guardian due to their restricted active legal capacity, if the parent’s custody of the child has been suspended or taken away completely, or to a child who has been separated from their parent. Replacement care can be temporary (with the consent of a parent, periodically or temporarily up to 90 days).

To perform the replacement care service (except in a foster family), an activity licence is necessary. In a foster family, the service can be performed by a natural person who has gone through the necessary evaluation and preparation process. Replacement care service is organised by a local government.

Replacement care in a foster family

Replacement care in a foster family means that the child is taken care of by a family that they are not a member of. At the same time, up to four persons under curatorship can be in a foster family, including the caregiver’s up to 14-year-old children and other persons who need care. More than four persons under curatorship can be in a foster family at the same time if it is in the best interests of the children in replacement care and the guardians of the children who have been placed and who are being placed in the family have given their consent.

If a family wishes to become a foster family, they have to submit an application to the Regional Unit of the Child Protection Department of the Social Insurance Board, who will assess the family’s suitability to become a foster family and will perform the acts relating to the preparations.

Replacement care in children’s homes

Replacement care in a children’s home means that the child is taken care of in a family with up to three foster parents and up to six children can live in the home at the same time. A foster parent will live for a shorter or longer period of time with the children who are living in the children’s home. If necessary, the foster parents can have an assistant.

Replacement care in a substitute home Replacement care in a substitute home means that the child is taken care of in a family with up to three educators and up to six children can live in the home at the same time. If the children of the substitute home are staying at the substitute home, at least one educator per family and, if necessary, an assistant as well has to be there twenty four hours a day. In a substitute home, the children are taken care of by educators under their employment contracts, which is why there are more people that take care of the children in the families of substitute homes and they alternate based on a schedule more quickly than in a children’s home.

Continued care service

Continued care service is organised by the local government and the aim is to support the ability of a person leaving replacement care or guardianship to cope independently and continue their studies. The young person is provided with housing, needs-based services, and allowances. The local government will provide continued care service to an adult under replacement care, who, after acquiring basic, secondary, vocational, or higher education, continues their studies in a vocational school, in professional higher education, in a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme at a university, or in an integrated Bachelor’s and Master’s programme until their studies are disrupted or until the nominal period of the studies ends, but not longer than until they attain 25 years of age.

The local government may also provide continued care service to a 21-year-old person who is not a student and was under replacement care or guardianship, or to an up to 25-year-old person who is a student and was under guardianship.

Continued care service receives its funding from the budget of the local government in which the person receiving the service lives according to the population register and from the income of the person who is under continued care.

You can read more about replacement and continued care on the website of the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Last amended: 03-07-2018 00:00 | Compiled by: Social Insurance Board; Ministry of Social Affairs