11 May 2019

Nigeria and Changing Face of Child Adoption

Saturday letter1

Child adoption is now becoming a growing culture in the country. Prior to now, adoption wasn't really a well-embraced tradition. But the trend seems to be changing as more Nigerians tilt towards the practice. It has been revealed by many indigenous orphanages, especially in Lagos, that things have changed from when they used to appeal through the media for Nigerians to come forward to adopt a child, to having a waiting list of couples interested in adopting babies. According to a high ranking source from the Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Welfare, the Ministry now receives huge number of applications on a weekly basis without a corresponding availability of adoptable children.

In spite of this, however, there is still a lot to be done to boost understanding about adoption and all it entails so that more Nigerians could get involved in the process. This is primarily to promote the culture and make it more acceptable. Research has revealed that children raised in traditional two-parent families experience a lower risk of delinquency than children from alternative family types (Free 1991, Rankin 1983). Another study on juvenile delinquency has shown that family structure is an important factor in explaining delinquency among adolescents.

A former Commissioner for Youth and Social Development in Lagos State, Mrs. Uzamat Akinbile-Yusuf, has also advocated the discouragement of institutionalization of children in orphanages. It is her conviction that children who grow under family setting have better advantage than those who were left to bond with other children in orphanages where they would be under strict monitoring.

Adoption is governed in Nigeria by two laws, The Child Rights Act 2003 and the Adoption law of the State. Where one seeks to adopt, cohabiting and same sex couples are not permitted by law to adopt children. Juvenile refers to a person who has attained the age of14 but is under 17 years, that is a young person who is not an adult, while the Nigerian Constitution of 1979 defines juvenile delinquency as a crime committed by a young person under the age of18 as a result of trying to comply with the wishes of his peers or to escape from parental pressure or certain emotional stimulation.

Adoption would, therefore, assist in reducing juvenile crimes in our society, by putting the children in deserving and loving families where they are re-integrated to contribute positively to the society, as against leaving them in orphanages where after some years they are left to themselves.

In the long run we discover that in showing love to these young ones, we are in reality loving ourselves enough to rid the society of potential criminals and nurture potential solution providers to the world problems we have been trying hard to solve. Who would have known that Joke Silva, the veteran Nollywood actress, Jamie Foxx, a famous musician and actor, the late Apple CEO; Steve Jobs among others, would become what they are today and achieved great feats in their different chosen careers? But thanks to adoption, all these individuals are distinguished persons, respected across the world as a result of what they have been able to achieve in their respective fields of human endeavour.

In recognition of the dearth of information on adoption in Nigeria, the Lagos State government has a responsive website www.mysd.lg.gov.ng. Adoption process in Lagos is not cumbersome as it is widely believed, but it is a project and applicants have to be thoroughly assessed and scrutinized. This is aimed at ensuring that only those that are suitable and capable are given the opportunity to adopt because of its legality.

Stages of adoption in Lagos Sate include submission of application letter, attending pre-counseling session, invitation for interview, filling of form, home assessment, adoption panel, post counseling, issuance of approval letter, making a choice of child in orphanage (introduction), identification of a child at the orphanages, authority to release for bonding, bonding period and legalization.

It has been revealed that adopters usually fail to complete the adoption process to the legalization stage, which is the final phase. There also a tendency for adopters to get carried away after the bonding period has expired. Counselors often educate the adopters about the consequences of failing to complete the process. Also, most times adopters are particular about physical features of the child they want and health status thereby prolonging the process. Likewise, applicants complain about the waiting period of 12 months as stipulated in section 121 of the Child Rights Law.

No matter how prolonged or complex the process of child adoption might be, it is nothing compared to the joy and fulfillment of giving a child hope and a head start in life. So, adopters should patiently pursue the process to its logical conclusion, since it is a worthy cause.

Anu Thomas & Oluwatoyosi Funke Ojo, Lagos State Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja

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