The Flemish ombudsman has called on the region’s government to take rapid action to tackle the problem of the long delays faced by candidates to adopt children.
In a new report, the service outlines the problem. The number of adoptions taking place in Flanders – adoption is a responsibility of the language communities – is going down by the year, while the number of candidates is increasing, and those on the waiting list are facing ever-longer delays.
Concretely, while there were 87 adoptions in 2017 – 29 within Flanders and 58 from outside – well down on the 831 in 2008. The number had gone down even further in 2020 to 39 – 16 domestic and 23 foreign.
At the same time, the waiting list numbered in the hundreds – 823 in November 2020, and many of those had been waiting what the report called “an extremely long time”.
The service illustrated the problem with one example.
A couple applied to adopt a child in 2012. Five years later, they were invited to take part in a preparatory course. The reason given for the long delay was apparently the time it had taken for them to pay the €250 course fee. Other couples who had paid earlier were given precedence.
The ombudsman points out that there is no legal basis for such discrimination, and that the preferential treatment for some only prolongs the wait for others.
The case is not an isolated one, the report says. In fact the service has 11 similar cases on its books at the moment.
“The question arises whether a period of, for example, 12 years, such as the period the applicants are heading for, is still reasonable and acceptable when waiting for a child,” the report said. And it raises the question whether the procedures in place are still tenable, or whether the Flemish government needs to consider a change of course.
Opposition politician Lorin Parys (N-VA) called on the Flemish health minister Wouter Beke (CD&V) to take urgent action.
“This report is devastating for the way in which the wishes and expectations of adoptive parents have been dealt with,” said Parys.
Beke reserved judgement for the time being.
“This report deserves a thorough reading. I’m not going to make any decision yet,” he said.