Adopting a child in Singapore

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In Singapore, only children below 21 years old can be adopted.[1] They must also be a Singapore Citizen, Singapore Permanent Resident or a Dependant's Pass holder. According to the Family Justice Courts of Singapore, the duration for most adoption applications tend to be lesser 6 months.[2] The following are the adoption agencies that work with Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF): TOUCH Family Services Ltd (official website), Fei Yue Community Services (official website), Lutheran Community Care Services (official website) and Apkim Centre For Social Services (ACOSS) (official website).

These adoption agencies also conduct various workshops and programmes aimed at helping new adoptive parents. Adoptive parents can attend a 'Disclosure Workshop' which will guide them in breaking the news to their adopted children. This workshop is available at TOUCH Family Services Ltd and Fei Yue Community Services. The pre- and post-adoption programmes are available at all 4 agencies.

Eligibility

In order to be able to adopt, potential adoptive parents have to fulfil the following requirements:[3]

Criteria Description
Citizenship At least one of the adopter couple should hold a form of Singapore citizenship (Singapore Citizen, Permanent Resident or holder of Employment Pass).
Age The couple must be above 25 years old.

The couple must be more than 21 years older than the child to be adopted.*

The age gap between the potential adoptive couple and the child cannot be more than 50 years old.


*Exceptions are allowed if either of the potential parents is related to the child.

Marital status Unmarried males cannot adopt a girl.*

Those who are married but are adopting alone must gain approval from their spouse.  


*Exceptions are allowed in unique situations.

Adoption process for a Singaporean/PR child

Before applying to the Family Court for adoption, interested couples have to successfully go through the following steps:

Pre-Adoption Briefing (PAB)

Potential adopters need to attend a Pre-Adoption Briefing (PAB).[4] The PAB is conducted by agencies that work with MSF. The briefing is a one-time session which lasts for 2.5 hours and is available in English, Mandarin and Malay. Both spouses are encouraged to attend the briefing together.

The briefing provides more information on the eligibility requirements and the adoption process. It also helps potential adopters understand the duties of an adoptive parent. Participants will also be guided through the needs of an adopted child and how they can receive support in their parenting journey. Potential adopters can register for the briefing online (official website).

Adoption endorsement for European Union Nationals

From 3 January 2014 onwards, Singapore adoption will not be immediately recognised in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. British Nationals are not allowed to adopt a child in Singapore. For all other Nationals of the European Union, a Letter of Support for EU nationals needs to be completed and endorsed before they may proceed with the adoption process.

Finding a child to adopt

Potential adopters can find a child to adopt through personal connections. Alternatively, they can find a child under State Care through MSF. For those who choose to enlist the assistance of MSF, they will be required to pass a home study before they are allowed access to the information of the children that can be adopted from MSF's affiliated adoption agencies.[5]

Obtaining legal consent and identification documents

Potential adopters must obtain the legal consent of the child’s biological parents. In the case where this is not possible, they can approach the child’s guardian or the parents of the biological parent if they are below 21 years old. In the event that all alternative parties are unable to give consent, the potential adopters may apply to the Court to do away with the consent. This request may be granted if it can be justified under unique situations.  

Potential adopters must obtain all identification documents of the child such as their birth certificate and passport if the child is PR.

Preparing a breakdown of costs

Any form of payment, such as a sum to show gratitude to the biological parents or payment to an agency for enlisting their assistance has to be accounted for to the Family Courts by providing a breakdown of the amount with original receipts as proof.

Even though it is illegal to pay biological parents to give up their child, there are still costs involved in the adoption process. The adoptive parents have to bear costs such as the biological mother’s hospital bills and pregnancy checkups. They should also give the biological parents a sum of money as a form of gratitude, ranging from around S$10,000 to S$16,000.[6]

Applying to the Family Courts for the adoption

Potential adopters can first submit an application to the Family Courts which can be done personally or through a lawyer. The adoption forms used by the Family Justice Courts can be assessed on the website (Family Justice Courts website).

Requesting for a Guardian-In-Adoption (GIA)

The Court will appoint a Guardian-In-Adoption (GIA) for the child. The potential adopter or their lawyer will need to request for the Director of Social Welfare to be the GIA. This can be done by submitting the following documents:

  • Date of Pre-Adoption Briefing (PAB)
  • Originating summons of adoption
  • Adoption statement
  • Affidavit in support of the originating summons
  • Consent for adoption by the relevant parties
  • NRIC of the potential adopters
  • Marriage certificate of potential adopters
  • Birth certificate of the child that they want to adopt
  • GIA fee of $250 per adoption application. The cheque should be made payable to ‘AG/MSF’.

The documents have to be sealed in an envelope addressed to Child Welfare, Child Protective Service (10th floor) and deposited at the MSF Drop Box which is located at MSF Building Level 1.

Receiving an affidavit

Potential adopters will be scheduled interviews conducted by a Child Welfare Officer (CWO) from MSF. Questions relating to the adopter’s family and the child’s status and situation will be asked during the interview. There will also be a home visit. The responses collected will be used to prepare an affidavit, an assessment of the adoption application based on the findings of the interviews, for the Family Courts.

After receiving the affidavit, the adopter and their lawyer have to submit it to the Family Courts, no later than 2 weeks after receiving it. This is to receive the date for the court hearing.

Court hearing

It is compulsory for the adopter and/or their lawyer to attend the hearing. If the Family Courts grants the Adoption Order, they will inform the Registry of Births & Deaths and Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to issue a new birth certificate for the child, which the adopters will be informed to collect.

If the Court dismisses the application, the child will have to be returned to the original family.

Adoption process for a foreign child (excluding PRC)

Before applying to the Family Courts for adoption, interested couples have to successfully go through the following steps:

Pre-Adoption Briefing (PAB)

Potential adopters need to attend a Pre-Adoption Briefing (PAB).[7] The PAB is conducted by agencies that work with MSF. The briefing is a one-time session which lasts for 2.5 hours and is available in English, Mandarin and Malay. Both spouses are encouraged to attend the briefing together.


The briefing provides more information on the eligibility requirements and the adoption process. It also helps potential adopters understand the duties of an adoptive parent. Participants will also be guided through the needs of an adopted child and how they can receive support in their parenting journey. Potential adopters can register for the briefing online (official website).

Letter of support for non-Singapore citizens

For non-Singapore Citizens who want to adopt a foreign child, they must receive approval from their home country. They can attempt to do so either through their embassy or High Commission. They will then need to complete a letter of support (official website).

Home study

Potential adopters will need to undergo a Home Study conducted by professional social service staff to assess their abilities to raise an adopted child. They can apply for Home Study online (official website). Upon passing the Home Study, they will receive a favourable Home Study Report (HSR) and an In-Principle Approval letter for the child’s Dependant’s Pass application.

Finding a child to adopt

They can then find a child to adopt through their own resources and be placed under their care.  

Obtaining legal consent and identification documents

Potential adopters must obtain the legal consent of the child’s biological parents. In the case where this is not possible, they can approach the child’s guardian or the parents of the biological parent if they are below 21 years old. In the event that all alternative parties are unable to give consent, the potential adopters may apply to the Court to do away with the consent. This request may be granted if it can be justified under unique situations.  

Potential adopters must obtain all identification documents of the child such as their birth certificate and passport if the child is PR.

Applying for a Dependent's Pass (DP)

A Dependent’s Pass (DP) has to be applied for the foreign child to allow them to enter and remain in Singapore until the adoption is approved. The pass can be applied for online (official website) with the submission of the Home Study Report. They will also need to place a security deposit of about S$1000 to S$2000 on the pass collection day.[8] The waiting time for the confirmation of the pass will take about a month. The pass will be valid for 9 months and may be renewed for valid reasons.

Preparing a breakdown of costs

Any form of payment, such as a sum to show gratitude to the biological parents or payment to an agency for enlisting their assistance has to be accounted for to the Family Courts by providing a breakdown of the amount with original receipts as proof.

Even though it is illegal to pay biological parents to give up their child, there are still costs involved in the adoption process. The adoptive parents have to bear costs such as the biological mother’s hospital bills and pregnancy checkups. They should also give the biological parents a sum of money as a form of gratitude, ranging from around S$10,000 to S$16,000.[9]

Applying to the Family Courts for the adoption

Potential adopters can first submit an application to the Family Courts which can be done personally or through a lawyer. The adoption forms used by the Family Justice Courts can be assessed on the website (Family Justice Courts website).

Requesting for a Guardian-In-Adoption (GIA)

The Court will appoint a Guardian-In-Adoption (GIA) for the child. The potential adopter or their lawyer will need to request for the Director of Social Welfare to be the GIA. This can be done by submitting the following documents:

  • Date of Pre-Adoption Briefing (PAB)
  • Originating summons of adoption
  • Adoption statement
  • Affidavit in support of the originating summons
  • Consent for adoption by the relevant parties
  • NRIC of the potential adopters
  • Marriage certificate of potential adopters
  • Birth certificate of the child that they want to adopt
  • GIA fee of $250 per adoption application. The cheque should be made payable to ‘AG/MSF’.
  • Home study report

The documents have to be sealed in an envelope addressed to Child Welfare, Child Protective Service (10th floor) and deposited at the MSF Drop Box which is located at MSF Building Level 1.

Receiving an affidavit

Potential adopters will be scheduled interviews conducted by a Child Welfare Officer (CWO) from MSF. Questions relating to the adopter’s family and the child’s status and situation will be asked during the interview. There will also be a home visit. The responses collected will be used to prepare an affidavit, an assessment of the adoption application based on the findings of the interviews, for the Family Courts.

After receiving the affidavit, the adopter and their lawyer have to submit it to the Family Courts, no later than 2 weeks after receiving it. This is to receive the date for the court hearing.

Court hearing

It is compulsory for the adopter and/or their lawyer to attend the hearing. If the Family Court grants the Adoption Order, they will inform the Registry of Births & Deaths and Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to issue a new birth certificate for the child, which the adopters will be informed to collect. The adopters will also need to submit a copy of the child’s new Singapore birth certificate to MSF to obtain their security deposit refund.

For those who want to apply for Singapore Citizenship for the adopted child, they need to apply to ICA through a separate procedure.

If the Court dismisses the application, the child will have to be returned to the original family. They will also need to cancel the Dependant’s Pass by returning it to the MSF.

Adoption process for a PRC (People’s Republic of China) child

The adoption process for PRC children is more stringent as there are requirements from both Singapore and PRC (People’s Republic of China). This arrangement was agreed upon by the Singapore and Chinese government to prevent people from selling their babies, in the name of giving it up for adoption. As of 2019, only TOUCH Family Services Ltd (official website) and Fei Yue Community Services (official website) are registered with MSF to provide adoption for PRC children.

Eligibility

To be eligible for child adoption, potential adopters have to fulfil the following requirements set by the China Centre for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA):[10]

Criteria Description
Citizenship At least one of the adopter couple should be either a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident.
Age The couple must be above 29 years old but below 50 years old.*

The couple must be more than 21 years older than the child to be adopted.*


*In the case that the adopters want to adopt a special needs child, they have to be above 29 years old but below 55 years old.

Marriage The adopters must be a couple of a male and a female with a stable marriage.

The adopters should not have more than 2 past marriages.*

There should be a maximum of 5 children in the household.


*In the case that one adopter has a past marriage, the existing marriage must be ongoing for at least 5 years.

Finances The adopters must have a minimum annual household income of US$10,000.

The value of their net assets should be more than US$80,0000

Education The adopters must have at least an 'A' Level Certificate or an ITE Certificate
Others The adopters must have good mental and physical health.

They must not have any criminal records pertaining to child abuse, sexual offences, and substance abuse.

They must undergo a minimum of 12 hours of training from a registered adoption centre.

The must obtain 3 reference letters from either their children* or teachers of their children.


*Only in the case that the children are above 18 years old.

Before applying to the Family Courts for adoption, interested couples have to successfully go through the following steps:

Pre-Adoption Briefing (PAB)

Potential adopters need to attend a Pre-Adoption Briefing (PAB).[11] The PAB is conducted by agencies that work with MSF. The briefing is a one-time session which lasts for 2.5 hours and is available in English, Mandarin and Malay. Both spouses are encouraged to attend the briefing together.


The briefing provides more information on the eligibility requirements and the adoption process. It also helps potential adopters understand the duties of an adoptive parent. Participants will also be guided through the needs of an adopted child and how they can receive support in their parenting journey. Potential adopters can register for the briefing online (official website).

Contacting relevant agencies

Approach the agencies which work with MSF and the Ministry of Civil Affairs of PRC regarding the adoption of children from PRC. The agency will determine the adopter's eligibility and contact CCCWA.

The agency will then submit the application to CCCWA. A fee will be incurred for additional translation and administrative works.

Finding a child to adopt

Upon successful application, the agency will inform the potential adopters of a child who is able to be adopted. The adopters will have to accept the child chosen by CCCWA and can only reject during special circumstances such as medical conditions. The adopters will need to travel to China to legalise the adoption and bring the child to Singapore.

Home study

Potential adopters will need to undergo a Home Study conducted by professional social service staff to assess their abilities to raise an adopted child. They can apply for Home Study online (official website). Upon passing the Home Study, they will receive a favourable Home Study Report (HSR) and an In-Principle Approval letter for the child’s Dependant’s Pass application.

Applying for a Dependent's Pass (DP)

A Dependent’s Pass (DP) has to be applied for the foreign child to allow them to enter and remain in Singapore until the adoption is approved. The pass can be applied for online (official website) with the submission of the Home Study Report. They will also need to place a security deposit of about S$1000 to S$2000 on the pass collection day.[12] The waiting time for the confirmation of the pass will take about a month. The pass will be valid for 9 months and may be renewed for valid reasons.

Preparing a breakdown of costs

Any form of payment, such as a sum to show gratitude to the biological parents or payment to an agency for enlisting their assistance has to be accounted for to the Family Courts by providing a breakdown of the amount with original receipts as proof.

Even though it is illegal to pay biological parents to give up their child, there are still costs involved in the adoption process. The adoptive parents have to bear costs such as the biological mother’s hospital bills and pregnancy checkups. They should also give the biological parents a sum of money as a form of gratitude, ranging from around S$10,000 to S$16,000.[13]

Applying to the Family Courts for the adoption

Potential adopters can first submit an application to the Family Courts which can be done personally or through a lawyer. The adoption forms used by the Family Justice Courts can be assessed on the website (Family Justice Courts website).

Requesting for a Guardian-In-Adoption (GIA)

The Court will appoint a Guardian-In-Adoption (GIA) for the child. The potential adopter or their lawyer will need to request for the Director of Social Welfare to be the GIA. This can be done by submitting the following documents:

  • Date of Pre-Adoption Briefing (PAB)
  • Originating summons of adoption
  • Adoption statement
  • Affidavit in support of the originating summons
  • Consent for adoption by the relevant parties
  • NRIC of the potential adopters
  • Marriage certificate of potential adopters
  • Birth certificate of the child that they want to adopt
  • GIA fee of $250 per adoption application. (The cheque should be made payable to ‘AG/MSF’.
  • Home Study Report

These documents have to be sealed in an envelope addressed to Child Welfare, Child Protective Service (10th floor) and deposit it at the MSF Drop Box which is located at MSF Building Level 1.

Receiving an affidavit

Potential adopters will be scheduled interviews conducted by a Child Welfare Officer (CWO) from MSF. Questions relating to the adopter’s family, inclusive of a home visit, and the child’s status and situation will be asked during the interview. The responses collected will be used to prepare an affidavit, an assessment on the adoption application based on the findings of the interviews, for the Family Courts.

After receiving the affidavit, the adopter and their lawyer have to submit it to the Family Courts, no later than 2 weeks after receiving it. This is to receive the date for the court hearing.

Court hearing

It is compulsory for the adopter and/or their lawyer to attend the hearing. If the Family Courts grants the Adoption Order, they will inform the Registry of Births & Deaths and Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to issue a new birth certificate for the child, which the adopters will be informed to collect. The adopters will also need to submit a copy of the child’s new Singapore birth certificate to MSF to obtain their security deposit refund.

For those who want to apply for Singapore Citizenship for the adopted child, they need to apply to ICA through a separate procedure.

If the Court dismisses the application, the child will have to be returned to the original family. They will also need to cancel the Dependant’s Pass by returning it to the MSF.

Post placement reports

The CCCWA requires the adoptive parents to submit post placement reports through the relevant Singapore agency. From 1 January 2015 onwards, adoptive parents are required to complete 6 post placement reports throughout the span of 5 years. The reports are to be submitted at the 6th month, the 1st year, and the 5th year upon successful adoption registration in China.

Adopting stepchildren

Singapore citizens that want to adopt their own stepchild can apply through MSF to have their Home Study Report (HSR) waived.[14] The adopters will need to submit their NRICs, marriage certificate, child’s birth certificate and the child’s travel documents if he/she is overseas.

The rest of the adoption process follows accordingly to their citizenship (Singaporean/ PR or Foreigner not from PRC or Foreigner from PRC) as written above. Those who are adopting their child that had been born out of wedlock can also waive the HSR if they submit the necessary documents stated above on top of DNA tests to prove the paternity.

References / Citations

  1. ‘Adoption: Who can be adopted?’. Ministry of Social and Family Development. Updated February 7, 2018. Accessed on 26 February 2019. Retrieved from:  https://www.msf.gov.sg/Adoption/Pages/Who-can-be-adopted.aspx
  2. "Adoption". Family Justice Courts. Accessed on 24 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.familyjusticecourts.gov.sg/what-we-do/family-courts/adoption
  3. ‘Adoption: Who can adopt?’. Ministry of Social and Family Development. Updated February 7, 2016. Accessed on 26 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.msf.gov.sg/Adoption/Pages/Who-can-Adopt.aspx
  4. ‘Adoption: How to adopt a child from the People’s Republic of China’. Ministry of Social and Family Development. Updated February 7, 2018. Accessed on 26 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.msf.gov.sg/Adoption/Pages/How-to-adopt-a-child-from-the-Peoples-Republic-of-China.aspx
  5. ‘Adoption: How to adopt a Singaporean or Permanent Resident Child.’ Ministry of Social and Family Development. Updated December 10, 2018. Accessed on 26 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.msf.gov.sg/Adoption/Pages/How-to-adopt-a-citizen-or-PR.aspx
  6. ‘Why is it more difficult to adopt now?’. Theasianparent. May 27, 2013. Accessed on 26 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://sg.theasianparent.com/why-is-adoption-in-singapore-more-difficult-no
  7. ‘Adoption: How to adopt a child from the People’s Republic of China’. Ministry of Social and Family Development. Updated February 7, 2018. Accessed on 26 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.msf.gov.sg/Adoption/Pages/How-to-adopt-a-child-from-the-Peoples-Republic-of-China.aspx
  8. ‘Adoption: Apply for Dependant’s Pass’. Ministry of Social and Family Development. Updated December 21, 2018. Accessed on 26 February 2019. Retrieved from:   https://www.msf.gov.sg/Adoption/Pages/Apply-for-Dependants-Pass.aspx
  9. ‘Why is it more difficult to adopt now?’. Theasianparent. May 27, 2013. Accessed on 26 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://sg.theasianparent.com/why-is-adoption-in-singapore-more-difficult-no
  10. ‘Adoption: Criteria for adoption of a PRC child’. Ministry of Social and Family Development. Updated February 7, 2018. Accessed on 26 February 2019. Retrieved from:  https://www.msf.gov.sg/Adoption/Pages/Criteria-for-adoption-of-a-PRC-child.aspx
  11. ‘Adoption: How to adopt a child from the People’s Republic of China’. Ministry of Social and Family Development. Updated February 7, 2018. Accessed on 26 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.msf.gov.sg/Adoption/Pages/How-to-adopt-a-child-from-the-Peoples-Republic-of-China.aspx
  12. ‘Adoption: Apply for Dependant’s Pass’. Ministry of Social and Family Development. Updated December 21, 2018. Accessed on 26 February 2019. Retrieved from:   https://www.msf.gov.sg/Adoption/Pages/Apply-for-Dependants-Pass.aspx
  13. ‘Why is it more difficult to adopt now?’. Theasianparent. May 27, 2013. Accessed on 26 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://sg.theasianparent.com/why-is-adoption-in-singapore-more-difficult-no
  14. ‘Adoption: How to adopt a stepchild.’ Ministry of Social and Family Development. Updated February 7, 2018. Accessed on 26 February 2019. Retrieved from:   https://www.msf.gov.sg/Adoption/Pages/How-to-adopt-a-stepchild.aspx