World

Faroe Islands has world's highest adoption rate

Just 48,000 people live in the Faroe Islands, including children from Ethiopia, Korea and India, who are welcomed with open arms in this remote Atlantic archipelago where adoption rates are the world's highest.

Among the newest citizens is Anna Maria, who has just turned four.  Two years ago, Anna Maria was adopted from a New Delhi orphanage by two lawyers from the Faroe Islands. Her brother Ludvik, seven months older, was born in Bulgaria.

A Danish autonomous territory, the Faroe Islands has the highest number of adopted children in the world in proportion to the population, according to Mette Garnes, a social worker at DanAdopt, one of two Danish adoption centres.

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With 10 to 15 children adopted each year from Bolivia, Bulgaria, China, Ethiopia, India, South Africa, South Korea and Vietnam, the isolated and remote Faroe Islands have an unusually multiethnic population.

'In terms of appearances, it may look like a multiethnic mosaic, but these children are fully-fledged Faroese and considered as such from the day they arrive there.

'They are not immigrants or foreigners', says Anna Maria's father Heoein Poulsen.

A dozen adoptions a year may not sound like much. In relative terms however, it amounts to four times more than in France or Denmark, according to official statistics from those countries.

Yet surprisingly, the archipelago has a strong birth rate, with women giving birth to an average of 2.6 children.

'Everybody wants to have children,' says Mr Poulsen, who heads a support group for parents hoping to adopt.

He is fighting to get Faroese authorities to raise state allowances to adoptive parents from the current ¤6,600 per adoption. Adopting a child can cost parents up to ¤20,000.

'But there's no price tag for a child for us, we can't imagine life without children,' says Mr Poulsen wife Birita Ludviksdoettir, who was unable to have her own children.

The couple waited two years for their adoption to go through.

'The day we came home with Anna Maria and Ludvik was the happiest day of my life. We were met at the airport by our friends and family carrying flags and bouquets of flowers, as if we were heroes," Ms Ludviksdoettir recalls.

'We were finally a family, and here, maybe more than in any other country, children are paramount,' she says.

For Mr Poulsen, who drops his children off at a municipal daycare outside the town every morning, the Faroe Islands is a paradise for children, who live close to nature and their extended families and friends in a peaceful environment with no crime.

The two children appear to have settled well into their new surroundings.

At the beginning, some of their friends were a little curious about their brown skin, but after that they were quickly 'adopted', according to Kristina Soemark who works at the daycare centre.

Like the two lawyers, 60-year-old Knut Gray also believes adopting his children was the best gift ever.

One of the first islanders to adopt children from India in the 1980s, Mr Gray says he and his wife Solrun 'absolutely' wanted to have kids.

Life without daughters Guunva, 23, and Anna, 21, would have been empty, he said.  And, he says, his daughters never experienced any racism.

Adoption Highest rate in Faroe Islands
Adoption
Highest rate in Faroe Islands

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