It is normally the parents who have parental responsibility for their children. Parental responsibility not only entails day-to-day care, but also the right and obligation to make decisions for the child. Even when a municipality has taken a child into care, the parents nevertheless have certain rights in relation to the child, such as the right to decide whether the child can move abroad and the right to decide whether the child can be adopted.
An adoption severs all legal ties between the child and his or her parents and transfers parental responsibility to the adoptive parents. When a child has been taken into care by the municipality, the child's parents can choose to voluntarily allow the child to be adopted. The Act also allows the Child Welfare Tribunal to deprive parents of parental responsibility and allow a child to be adopted without parental consent.
A compulsory adoption decision is highly invasive and can only be made in cases where it is likely that the child would in any case grow up in the foster home. The reason for this could be that the parents are permanently unable to provide the child with proper care or that the child has become so attached to the foster parents and the environment where he or she is living that removing the child may lead to serious problems for him or her. The foster parents must also have demonstrated over time that they are fit to take proper care of the child. This means that compulsory adoption is rarely an option until the child has lived in the foster home for quite some time.
Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights sets strict conditions for allowing a compulsory adoption. The Supreme Court of Norway has stated that ‘particularly weighty reasons’ are required to decide that children are to be adopted against the parents’ wishes, and that this condition is in line with the European Court of Human Rights’ case law.