GUIDE TO ADOPTION FOR NIGERIAN RESIDENTS
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 PRACTICE IN NIGERIA
In Nigeria, adoption may be effected under the statutory 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.
For 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 FOR THE NIGERIAN RESIDENTS
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 is made in prescribed form and accompanied with:
In practice, the adopter cannot make this application to the court on his own without the consent of the government welfare agency or department. In Lagos State, the government department responsible for such a process is the Ministry for Youth and Social Development located in Ikeja, Lagos.
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 may 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 for the 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 that occurred 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.
ADOPTION PROCESS FOR THE FOREIGNERS SEEKING TO ADOPT NIGERIAN CHILDREN
For any foreigner or any Nigerian citizen resident abroad to adopt any child in Nigeria, such foreigner must do so through an international adoption agency or local foundation. Some of the adoption agencies and foundations are based in Nigeria and many of them are in abroad. While a United States of America citizen seeking to adopt a child in Nigeria must commence the process through an adoption agency based in the United States, most citizens of other countries can commence the process using either local or foreign agency or any foundation based in Nigeria.
In conclusion, the process of adoption in Nigerian states usually commences with the letter of application to the government’s welfare department, usually the Ministry of Youth and Social Development. It then proceeds to the identification of the ‘child’ or ‘juvenile’ to be adopted. If the adoption involves identifiable relative, there will be no recourse to the orphanage anymore. The process will move to the family court for an order of adoption through the appropriate agency of government, which is the Ministry for Youth and Social Development.
Written by Family Law Team at Resolution Law Firm, Nigeria