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Germany

Germany Mulls Gray Adoption

Faced with an ageing population and a rapidly declining birth rate, the German government wants to encourage older people to adopt children.

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Parents or grandparents?

Adopting a child is not easy -- it's highly emotional -- and in Germany, it's also frought with bureaucracy. A couple's age is just one of the hurdles that prevents potentially good parents from adopting a child. Ideally, the new mom and dad aren't supposed to be more than 40 years older than the child. That might be about to change, if Germany's Minister for Family Affairs Renate Schmidt has her way.

Give older parents a chance to adopt a child, too, Renate Schmidt has urged Germany's federal states.

Buchcover: Schmidt - SOS Familie

"SOS Family: We're looking old without children" is the title of a book written by Schmidt

The Family Minister believes the country's 16 states should take a close look at the country's demographic development. In a country where the population is growing increasingly older, there shouldn't only be young parents, she said, adding that many women start families late nowadays as they want to pursue their careers first.

Ines Kurek-Bender of Germany's Federal Association for Adoptive Families said the parents' age shouldn't be the determining factor anyway.

Mirroring society

"Society's development must be mirrored in adoptive families," she said, adding that those responsible already do their best to match parents and children without putting age first.

Bildergalerie Gerhard Schröder 10

Schröder and his wife Doris Schröder-Köpf

Schmidt is backed by German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, 60, who himself recently adopted a three-year-old Russian girl with his 41-year-old wife. If you have a place in your heart and a place at home, you should consider adopting a child, too, the chancellor told Germans at the time, responding to criticism that he and his wife Doris got special treatment from the adoption agencies to overlook the age factor.

So far, the decision over who can and who cannot adopt a child is up to the youth welfare departments. They say, the difference in ages should not be more than 40 years. That means if a parent is 45, the child adopted will have to be at least five. But Schmidt is apparently trying to push that age limit even further, although it is not clear yet what practical results this would have. The waiting line for adoptions in Germany is much longer than that of available children -- the ratio is about 20:1.

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