Relatives vs adoption -- bitter child custody battles in Estonia

Many prominent cases of relatives trying to win child custody cases have sparked a heated debate in Estonia. The central question: should close relatives have priority over strangers?

Marian Männi
Marian Männi Eesti Ekspress, Estonia
Source: Eesti Ekspress
Relatives vs adoption -- bitter child custody battles in Estonia - NewsMavens
Child, PixaBay

Why this story matters:

A grandmother battled through all court levels trying to save her grandson from being adopted; an aunt fought for a year to win custody over her sister's son. Cases like that have brought the relatives of abandoned children into the spotlight.

How much right should family members have to be granted the custody of children to whom they are related?

Right now, the practice seems to often be that they are being scrutinized and viewed just like any other parent-to-be and it is not easy to win custody simply by claiming relation to the child. This has caused an outrage. Could strangers really be more suitable for a child than their own flesh and blood?

Often the confusion is also caused by the complicated legal procedures. Relatives may not understand all the terms correctly, or may not say or do the right things at the right time.

In response, social workers have claimed that they always look for the first option amongst the circle of relatives before letting the child to be adopted by strangers.

However, there are examples -- including these two above mentioned -- where this was not the case.

The Minister of Social Protection, Kaia Iva, recently said that the relatives should have the priority over other people who want to become parents.

Details from the story:

  • A grandmother lost her chance to win custody over her grandson, because she honestly admitted that her grandson should stay with his mother, but she is ready to help out. The judge regarded this as giving up the custody. Not enough commitment was shown, the court decided. 
  • An aunt turned to the media after many failed attempts to adopt her sister's son. As the case became highly known by the public, the officials reopened the case and the boy finally found a new home at his aunt's place, after spending an unnecessary year in an orphanage.
  • Kaia Iva, Minister of Social Protection, invited a round table to discuss the matter with the representatives of local governments. Her main message was: adopting shouldn't be a rushed decision. A family should be supported in every way so that the child could stay with their biological parents. If this doesn't work out, then close relatives should have priority over strangers when applying for the custody.
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