HOW TO ADOPT A CHILD IN NIGERIA
(STEPS AND PROCEDURES)
Adoption is a legal process whereby a child’s legal rights and duties towards its natural parents are terminated and bequeathed to his adoptive parents. It is also an order made by a special court with inherent jurisdiction vesting the parental rights and duties relating to a child to his adoptive parents. The said order is made upon the application of the adoptive parents to the special court set aside by the state to handle adoption matters.
Adoption generally has been promoted to reduce the rate of abortion and drug addiction in the event of an unwanted pregnancy.
There are many reasons why people want to adopt children, they range from:
- For childless couples, in other to stabilize their marriages
- The need to replace a dead child(in the case where the dead child is an only child, only female or only male)
- For the companionship of an only child
- To legitimate an illegitimate child
- To sustain a particular line of descent
- To rescue an abandoned child to give him/her a home and an identity
- To relieve parents who are unable to take care of their child(ren).
- Other reason maybe simply to give a home and family to children who does not have a home nor family
Adoption in Nigeria may be achieved either statutorily or customarily. Under the statutory law, the law differs from one state to the other. Under the custom it equally differs from one culture to the other.
I will focus this write-up on adoption under the statutory law
ADOPTION PROCEDURE IN RIVERS STATE
For an adoption to take place there is a special court 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 or the information supplied were false.
The laws in most parts of the country provide that an application for an adoption order must be made in the prescribed form (Form 1) and submitted to the registrar of the competent court of the area where the applicant or the juvenile resides. Section 1 of the Adoption Law of Rivers State 1999 makes provision as to the application for adoption which is to the effect that application be made in prescribed form and accompanied with the following documents:
- The marriage certificate or a sworn declaration of marriage
- A medical certificate of fitness of the applicant signed by a duly registered medical practitioner.
- The birth certificate of the child to be adopted.
- The medical certificate of fitness of the child signed by a duly registered medical practitioner.
- 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
By Section 6 of the Adoption Laws of Rivers State, 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 shall be either the Chief Welfare Officer or 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. The guardian ad litem investigates the circumstances relevant to the proposed adoption and reports in writing to the court.
By Section 2 (4) of the Rivers State Adoption Law, an adoption Order shall not be made except the applicant and the Juvenile are resident in Rivers State, the child has been continuously in the care and possession of the applicant for at least 3 consecutive months immediately preceding the date of the order. 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.
The applicant can consult a 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 taking care of 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. Furthermore 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.
In conclusion, the adoption process differs from State to State because of the differences in the adoption Laws of the various States of Nigeria. Also the process starts with the applicant identifying the orphanage home or the child to be adopted. The next step is to find out their method or how they carry out their own adoption process. It differs from one orphanage home to another.
Adoption is important in society because it touches on status and therefore affects the rights and obligation of an adopted person.
It is always advisable to engage the services of a lawyer to facilitate the process.