Fostering/adoption: Benefits and challenges

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By Hawa Lawal

Child-bearing is a delight of every marriage.

The expectation of a new-born boosts the parents’ sense of responsibility by imagining the coming of a new member of the family.

The glamour of procreation has also, somewhat, elicited pressure on couples that have not been privileged to beget any child in marriage; even when they have taken various medical steps to achieve it.

In Africa, such pressure could emanate from family members, especially the parents of the couple and friends, among others.

Adoption professionals then observe that legal fostering and adoption system present opportunities for willing couples and many others to have children.

Fostering, which can result in adoption, is a temporary living arrangement for abused, neglected, and dependent children who need a safe

place to live when their parents or another relative cannot take care of them.In adoption, a child moves permanently to a new home with a family

that will, after legal processes, be responsible for the child’s upkeep and has rights on the child’s activities.Both cases end in bringing to one’s care a child who belongs to someone else but this requires an attorney to prepare proper documentation to validate the processes.

With these legality and somewhat alluring values of the system, critics have often asked how useful fostering and adoption are to the public.

An adoptive mother, simply called Joice, says she has been in grief of childlessness for eight years, spending a lot of money on fertility medications.

“I faced untold misery from many years with visceral pain of not having a child; always feeling bad and dreaming about babies.

“I always think very deeply believing that I will have no lineage and no one to inherit my wealth.

“Being childless is a very complex form of grief from day to day; very painful and the desire to have a child became stronger,’’ she explains.

Joice observes that life became horrible for her when her husband moved on with his life and impregnated a lady who bore him a baby-boy.

“I started alternative treatments — the In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), a process of fertilisation where an egg is combined with sperm outside the body — but after a series of failed IVF treatments, I chose to adopt.

“The journey of adoption is never easy but it transforms the pain I felt over the years and soothes me of the agony of my husband that walked away from home.

“Today I am the happiest woman around. My life has changed, it is a big turnaround.

“For those struggling with the decision to adopt, I advise you to follow it to the end and remain focused.

“Speaking from real experience, after spending more than N5.8 million on tests and series of failed IVF, I say go for adoption with strong faith,’’ she explains.

Medical personnel believe that there are many couples who are going through some of these challenges, advising both partners to exhaust all medical fertility tests before considering adoption.

But critics note that adoption could be seen as incongruous in Africa where some cultures may undermine the integrity of any family that uphold adoption.

However, concerned citizens insist that enlightenment has neutralised such belief. They argue that “shame’’ of adoption is no longer existing because a lot of people are taking it as a trending alternative.

For its acceptance by the public, the provisions of the Child Right Act 2003 which are the principal legislation regulating adoption in the country, set out the required qualifications a person must possess to be eligible to adopt a child.

According to the act, the applicant for adoption of a child must not be less than 25 years of age and must be at least 21 years older than the child to be adopted.

It states that where the applicant is unmarried, there must be evidence that he or she has attained the age of 35 years and the child to be adopted is of the same sex.

The person should also have a good personality and must have the financial capability to take care of the child.

Adoption laws in most parts of the country state that an application for an adoption order must be made in the prescribed form and submitted to the registrar of the competent court.

Similarly, the prescribed application must be accompanied by a marriage certificate or a sworn declaration of marriage, birth certificates, two passport photographs of each applicant and a medical certificate of fitness of the applicant from a government hospital and other documents, requirements, and information as the court may require for the purpose of adoption.

Adoption professionals note that before any person can consider adoption, there are some things he or she must bear in mind because it is not an easy process.

According to them, adoption is not an easy process which involves a lot of time, stress and money.

Joice shares her experience in the process at the Federal Capital Development Administration (FCDA) Social Office, Gender Department.

“With adoption, nothing is guaranteed, someday everything might be on track, on other days it could be what did I put myself into with going from one office to another tracing files.

“It is good to let whoever that is going into adoption to know that in FCT it is not a straight- jacket affair, you have to foster first before you apply for adoption after one year.

“The social welfare office visits the home of the adoptive parents until the officer in charge is satisfied that the juvenile is settled and the prospective adoptive parents are capable of looking after him or her.

“The social welfare officer reports in writing a positive recommendation to the office and later meets with the court.

“After one year, the adoption process would begin by writing an application for an adoption order in accordance with local requirements and submitted to Family Court through the FCDA Social Office, Gender Department.

“The court would, at a later date, invite you and the social welfare officer in charge to court for some questioning, resulting in giving legal custody or denying the adoptive parents.

If the adoptive parents sails through, an adoption order would be issued and the parents would obtain a new birth certificate for the child listing them as the child’s parents.

“Now that the adoption is completed by obtaining legal custody of the child, you need to apply for other documents for your child before he or she can travel to foreign countries.

“You will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child, so that you can later apply for a passport as your name would be added to the new birth certificate.

“There is also a need for you as a parent to apply to the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development through the social welfare office stating that the adoptive parents are the legal parents of the child.

“When the application is approved, a letter would be issued and it would then permit the adopting parents to apply for a passport for the child.

“Don’t start your adoption journey until you are fully prepared and educate yourself with the appropriate child’s training,’’ she advises.

Joice also warns against a failed adoption process due to incorrect documentation, saying that whoever is going for adoption must be ready to bear the brunt of it.

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