Adoption is a legal process pursuant to state statute in which a child’s legal rights and duties towards its natural parents are terminated and similar rights and duties towards his adoptive parents are substituted. It is also an order vesting the parental rights and duties relating to a child in the adopters, made on their application by an authorized court.
Adoption is important in society because it touches on status and therefore affects the rights and obligation of an adopted person. The factors that necessitate the adoption of a child range from the mere fact of being childless to the desire to replace a dead child, to acquire a companion for an only child, to stabilize a marriage, to legitimate an illegitimate child, to sustain a particular line of descent, to rescue a child who is in an irreversible situation of abandonment or to relieve parents who are unable to take care of their child. Many people adopt simply to give a home and family to children who might not otherwise have them.
ADOPTION PRACTICE IN NIGERIA
In Nigeria, adoption may be effected either under statutory law or customary law. However, as with all adoption procedures, rules differ from state to state: adoptive parents must foster their children for at least three months in Lagos, but must foster for at least one year in Akwa Ibom, Abuja allows adoption if and only if one parent is Nigerian. The government office responsible for adoption in Nigeria is the civil court.
In Nigeria, the practice of child adoption is growing with improved public awareness through media, personal testimony, social research and other sources. Government and non-governmental agencies are also promoting child adoption as a substitute to abortion in unintended/unwanted pregnancy.
For an adoption to take place, the court is vested with powers to grant an adoption order depending on the type of adoption taking place. The court also has the right to cancel an adoption process if it thinks or get reports that the adoptive parents applied undue pressure.
ADOPTION PROCESS IN LAGOS AND ENABLING LAWS ON ADOPTION
The laws in most parts of the country provide that an application for an adoption order must be made in the prescribed form and submitted to the registrar of the competent court. Section 116 of the Child Rights Law of Lagos State 2015 makes provision as to the application for adoption which is to the effect that application be made in prescribed form and accompanied with:
- The marriage certificate or a sworn declaration of marriage
- The birth certificate or sworn declaration of age of each applicants.
- Two passport photograph of each applicant
- A medical certificate of fitness of the applicant from a government hospital and
- Such other documents, requirements and information as the Court may require for the purpose of adoption
On receipt of the application, the court will give an order of investigation to be conducted by Social Welfare Officers, supervision officers, and any other persons as the Court may determine to assess the suitability of the applicant as an adopter and of the child to be adopted
The court will appoint a guardian ad litem for the Juvenile to represent him or her in the adoption proceeding. The person appointed as the guardian ad litem is the welfare officer in charge of the area where the juvenile resides; or a probation officer or some other person suitably qualified in the opinion of the court of assignment.
The guardian ad litem investigates the circumstances relevant to the proposed adoption and reports in writing to the court. Prospective adoptive parent (s) must inform the chief welfare officer of their intention to adopt at least three months before the court order is made. For at least three consecutive months immediately preceding an adoption order, the juvenile must have been in the care and custody of the applicant. The applicant for adoption must be resident in Nigeria during this entire period. Foreigners must seek private legal assistance to facilitate the process of adoption.
The confidential report of the welfare officer will be written after several visits to the home of the adoptive parents and after he or she is satisfied that the juvenile is settled and that the prospective adoptive parents are capable of looking after him or her. In such a case a positive recommendation will be sent to the court. In some states, after the adoption has been granted, the adoptive parents must obtain leave of court before the child can be taken out of the jurisdiction of the court either temporarily or permanently. In addition, a letter from the social welfare officer to the immigration officer, informing the immigration officer that the adoptive parents are now the legal parents of the juvenile, must be obtained before the adoptive parents will be permitted to obtain a passport to take an adopted child out of Nigeria.
Every action taken in an adoption proceeding and its final outcome must be entered into the Adoption Register. A certified copy of an entry in the Adopted Children’s Register if stamped or sealed by the registrar’s office shall be proof of such adoption as is specified therein.
PROCESS OF ADOPTION OF NIGERIA CHILDREN BY FOREIGNERS
Nigeria is not party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Intercountry adoptions of children from non-Hague countries are processed in accordance with 8 Code of Federal Regulations, Section 204.3 as it relates to orphans.
Individuals who are not Nigerian citizens are not legally allowed to adopt in Nigeria. When a married couple is adopting, both must be Nigerian citizens. However, only United States citizens who also have Nigerian citizenship are allowed to adopt children in Nigeria.
Nigerian adoption laws are complex and vary from state to state. At the national level, the Nigerian Child Rights Law or the Adoption Act of 1965 regulates adoptions. Depending on where the adoption takes place, the specific law and regulations governing the adoption may differ.
In general, prospective adoptive parents who intend to adopt a specific child must first obtain temporary custody of the child. Prospective adoptive parents are advised to obtain information on adopting in individual states through the state social welfare office. Please note that the only legal way to do an adoption in Nigeria is to work with the respective state social welfare office (usually named the State Ministry of Women’s or Family Affairs). Prospective adoptive parents should not attempt to process their adoption through local officials who may attempt to circumvent the legal process.
Also it is very instructive to note that prospective adoptive parents should be aware that not all children in orphanages or children’s homes are eligible for adoption. In many countries, birth parents place their child (ren) temporarily in an orphanage or children’s home due to financial or other hardship, intending that the child return home when it becomes possible. In such cases, the birth parent(s) have not relinquished their parental rights or consented to their child(ren)’s adoption.
In conclusion process of adoption in Nigeria states usually commences with the identification of an orphanage by an adopting party. It then proceeds to the identification of the ‘child’ or ‘juvenile’ to be adopted. The actual process and procedure further differs slightly from orphanage to orphanage in many respects and actually depends on whether an orphanage is state owned or privately run. However, any adoption process must from beginning involve government agencies from the State’s Ministry of Women’s or Family Affairs.
Written by Family Law Team at Resolution Law Firm, Nigeria