MPs in the lower house of the National Assembly recently voted in favour of a law to allow unmarried couples to adopt children. It must now be approved by the Senate.
The vote in favour was greeted with applause in Parliament but there was opposition from (right-wing) Républicain MPs, who argued that the measures favoured adults rather than the best interests of children and that one year together is not long enough for a couple to adopt.
Currently, only married couples, whether heterosexual or homosexual, can adopt and they must be at least 28 years old or show they have been together for two years.
An individual can adopt, but if they are in an unmarried couple, only one partner can become the legal parent.
This would change with the new law, which would also lower the age for adoption to 26, or a couple would have to show they have been together for one year, rather than two.
Anyone wanting to adopt children in care has to apply first for an agrément from the Aide Sociale à l’Enfance (AS E) in their department.
This involves a series of interviews to make sure candidates are suitable. In 2018, 10,676 families were awarded an agrément, exceeding the number of adoptable children.
There used to be around 25,000 a year, but the numbers asking for an agrément have been going down steadily. Between 2017 and 2018, numbers fell 12%.
After obtaining an agrément, the potential adopter applies to one or several departments and if a match is found, the child will be placed for six months with the family before a judge makes the adoption official.
'Many of the children who need a new family are older and may have difficulties, such as a disability'
Anyone who wants information can turn to Enfance & Familles d’Adoption (EFA), the largest adoption association, with 6,000 members and 92 branches.
The organisation’s president Anne Royal told The Connexion that most families wish to adopt a baby or a young child, but said: “Many of the children who need a new family are older and may have difficulties, such as a disability.
“Gradually, with support and education, more people are coming forward willing to take on an older child, even though it is likely to be more difficult because they have probably suffered more from the separation with their biological parents.”
EFA welcomes some, but not all, of the measures in the new proposed law on adoption: “We believe a couple do not have to be married to be a good family but we think one year together is not long enough to decide on adoption.
“We have been campaigning for years for more preparation sessions for potential adopters and this is included in the law, though we have no details on how it will work.
“We are also pleased that anyone sitting on the Conseil de Famille, the body in each prefecture which decides on the future of children in care, will have to have appropriate training.”
The association fears the law has been rushed: “Our legal advisers say it has not been drawn up sufficiently well to avoid confusion over certain points.
“More consultation was necessary on some measures, such as banning all private adoption organisations for adoptions in France, organismes autorisés pour l’adoption (OAA).
“They are used very little but can be preferable in some cases.”
Mrs Royal said anyone who is thinking about adopting can get in touch with the EFA branch in their department: “We give non-judgmental advice and information to anyone who asks. I think it is very important for anyone who wants to adopt to talk to as many people as possible and get as much information as they can.
'It is not the same as having your own child because adoptees already have their own history when they join your family. No one should remain alone making this decision'
The association also offers continuing support once the adoption is official. It advises telling children early that they have been adopted in words appropriate to their age.
Later, children have the right to seek out their biological parents, if they wish to.
If the mother has asked for her identity to be kept secret but the child wants to know her name, there is a procedure for the mother to be re-contacted to ask if she is now prepared to change her mind.
In some overseas countries, there is help set up to find parents.