A fourth adoption conference was held in Zagreb on Friday, under the motto "This child too needs a family", which heard that administrative obstacles remain the biggest problem to adoption in Croatia and the reason why only 30 children of the 500 meeting requirements are adopted a year.

"Our wish is that as few children as possible grow up in institutions and as many as possible in families. To succeed in that, we should deal with the administrative obstacles to adoption," Social Policy and Youth Minister Bernardica Juretic said opening the conference as an envoy of President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.

Juretic said too long procedures should be simplified so that children were maximally protected and potential adoptive parents did not have too wait long. That way, children would not grow up in institutions, reaching school age, when they are harder to adopt, she said, adding that legislative amendments were being worked on to simplify adoption.

Of the 3,000 children living in foster homes and institutions, about 500 annually meet adoption requirements but as many as 70 percent remain in the welfare system, said Dunja Bonacci Skenderovic, president of Adopta, the organisation which organised the conference. She said those were harder to adopt children - those aged six or older, from numerous families, members of ethnic minorities, children with developmental disabilities or sick children.

The register of potential adopters contains the names of 640 persons, either couples or individuals. Because of this discrepancy, Adopts is asking for a new comprehensive public adoption policy fully aligned with adopters' and children's needs, she said.

According to an Adopta survey, potential parents say the biggest obstacle to the adoption of harder to adopt children is fear of the child's past and its impact on the future, while the biggest obstacle to the adoption of ethnic minority children is fear of prejudice and discrimination.

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