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Adoption forms

What are the types and forms of adoption?

There are different types and forms of adoption in Germany. The following clarification of terms provides an overview. The adoption types and their characteristics can be distinguished thereby on the basis of certain characteristics.


Age of the adopted person

minority adoption

This is the adoption of a minor child. The welfare of the child is always the focus of an adoption, which is why adoptive parents must meet high requirements. To ensure this, it is mandatory that an adoption agency be involved in the adoption process.

Adult adoption

In an adult adoption, a person of legal age is adopted. Prerequisite according to law is that the adoption is morally justified. This is to be assumed if a parent-child relationship has already existed between the parties.

Origin of the child

domestic adoption

In a domestic adoption, a child living in Germany is adopted by adopters living in Germany.

Foreign adoption - also called international adoption

An international adoption exists if a change of country of residence is involved for the child in connection with the adoption. The respective nationality of the child as well as the nationality of the adoptive parents do not play a role. The adoption can take place abroad, but also in Germany. In the case of a foreign adoption, it is mandatory that a foreign placement agency be involved in the international adoption proceedings. Otherwise, the foreign adoption will not be recognized in Germany. Foreign placement offices are the central adoption offices of the state youth welfare offices (LVR and LWL) as well as the recognized foreign placement offices of the independent carriers within the scope of their respective country approvals.


foreign adoption

In a third-party adoption, a child who is not related to the adopter(s) by blood or marriage is adopted.

Stepparent adoptions

This form accounts for the majority of adoptions in Germany. In stepchild adoption, the biological child of the partner is adopted. With the adoption, stepchildren become legally equal to joint natural children of the partners.

Relative adoption

In kinship adoption, a related child (for example, the niece, nephew, grandniece) is adopted. In this case, in contrast to the adoption of a third party, only the relationship of the child to both natural parents is extinguished, but not that to his or her other relatives.

Foster child adoption

Foster child adoption is the adoption of a foster child by its foster parents. This form of adoption is rather rare in Germany. Most foster children live permanently in the foster relationship.

Contact between the birth parents and the adoptive parents

Incognito adoption

In incognito adoption, the parents of origin and the adoptive parents do not know each other and there is no exchange of information or contact, or it is only mediated through the adoption agency.

Open forms of adoption

In open adoption, there is usually no direct contact between the birth family and the adoptive family. However, with the consent of the adoptive parents, the birth parents can participate in the child's development, for example, by exchanging pictures and development reports on the child through the adoption agency. The birth parents can also deposit letters, pictures or similar for the child in the placement file, which the adoptive child can view under professional supervision.

Open Adoption

In open adoption, the adoptive parents and birth parents get to know each other. With the consent of the adoptive parents, arrangements can be made as to how contact will be arranged by both parties. For example, there can be regular meetings between the two sets of parents and the child. In this way, the birth parents can witness their child growing up and the adopted child can better understand where it comes from.

Other forms of adoption

Successive adoption

Since the legal opening of "marriage for all", joint adoption has also been possible for same-sex married couples. However, registered civil partners* can only adopt a non-birth child consecutively so far, not simultaneously. In the case of unmarried couples, only one of the two partners can adopt the child as an individual.

More informationDownload

With the brochure "Adoption - an overview for interested parties", the central adoption offices of the two state youth welfare offices in North Rhine-Westphalia will give you answers to general questions about adoption.

Legal information and tips on adoption are summarized in the brochure "Adopting a child" published by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs.