The Hungarian Adoption System



1000 adoptions per year

  • 130 stepparent adoption
  • 100-150 open adoption by NGO’s (newborn infants)
  • 600-800 closed adoptions from which

– 40-60 by former foster parent

– 450-500 by Hungarian families

– 200-250 international (Italy, Spain, US, Norway, Netherlands)

21 500 children live in foster care and residential homes


Requirements for adoption


  • Married couples are preferred. Singles may only adopt the children who are not wanted by couples
  • at most 45 years older than the child (if the child is older than 3 years, the age difference may be in several cases even 50 years)
  • at least 2 years age difference between the children
  • siblings allowed to be adopted together
  • a child can go abroad, if no domestic applicant is found
  • foreign citizens living in Hungary may apply for the domestic adoption. If you live abroad, and wish to adopt a Hungarian child, read this:
  • “We search the ideal parent for the child, not the ideal child for the parents”


Strict rules for the children eligible for adoption

  • placed in a baby-box (3-10 children per year)
  • birth parents gave up for adoption: open (150-200) and closed (150)
  • death of parents (10)
  • parents did not show up for 6 months (260)
  • court terminated parental rights (70)

Society problems in the background: extreme poverty


Application for adoption: 3500 prospective parents waiting at a time

The usual reason for adoption is infertility. Adoption for charity is rare.

Application process:

  • psychological examination
  • medical examination
  • home study
  • salary check
  • preparation course for prospective parents (40 hours) – not compulsory, but suggested. Main message: the child must know from a young age that she is adopted!

Failing the process is really rare, but the waiting time for the child can be long. Average waiting time: 3-4 years (strongly depends on the age, health etc. of the child wanted and the parent’s situation)

Most wanted: healthy infants with white skin. Girls are preferred to boys.

Not really wanted: older children, children with disabilities, roma/gipsy origin, larger sibling groups

Children with no chance to adopt (even internationally): children over 10 years, children with multiple disabilities, sibling groups with 4-5 or more children.

The adoption process is practically free.

Matching process:

  • state system for closed adoptions, a team chooses from the list of applicants
  • open adoption: 9 NGO’s with their own waiting list and criteria

Children wait too long before the adoption, specially older and not-so-wanted children (roma boys over 2-3 years)

Forming a new family: a bonding process takes place –  one to several weeks (older children usually live in foster care, rarely in residential home).

The adoption becomes official one month after taking the child home.

Compulsory follow-up for one and a half year (2 times)

Clubs and organizations exist for adoptive parents, as well as for adult adoptees.

Adult adoptees are allowed to seek for their birth parents and siblings officially with the help of the custodian office. Birth parents may not search. But the internet makes it quicker.

Terminating the adoption is possible through court, yearly 5-20 cases, but the rate of unsuccessful adoptions is higher.

Social acceptance for adoption

Still regarded as a peculiarity.

Prejudices, stereotypes about adoptive parents and birth parents.

Bad experiences in the previous generations: secrets and lies. (Preparation course is obligatory only for the last 12 years, before that adoption was kept a secret in front of the children.)

Adoption is not part of the teacher’s curriculum, hard to deal with in school situations.

Being a birth mother is a taboo, no official help exists for them.

Zsuzsa Mártonffy,