Many children are being orphaned everyday but adoption is one thing that many Nigerian parents are not enthusiastic about. Blessing Ukemena examines the reasons behind the low rate of adoption in the country
Would you adopt a child? Yes, if you can afford to. Some may think of it as a way of helping the future generation but unfortunately, most Nigerians are not very welcome to the idea of taking in a child that is not biologically their’s. Several reasons have been given to defend this position but top on the list is that it is neither religiously nor culturally acceptable.
From the religious angle and as confirmed by followers of each of the two main religions in the country; Christianity allows for adoption while Islam does not allow it, instead it allows fostering – a situation where you can bring a child into your home and take care of him/her but the child cannot bear your name or inherit any of your personal properties like your biological children
In Nigeria, the culture and tradition are strong points that do not support adoption.
It is viewed that any couple that adopts a child before they can have their own children is infertile, not the kind of stigma anyone would like to have. Meanwhile in the Western world, adopting children is like a celebrity habit. Sharon Stone has three adopted sons, Madonna has two adopted children, Angelina Joli adopted three children in addition to their biological children.
Some other stars that also adopted include Lionel Richie, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, Kristen Davis but to name a few. The irony is that most of these adopted children are of African origin but right here in Africa the rate of adoption is very low.
According to an official within the Ministry of women affairs, the Nigerian law allows for Nigerian couples to adopt but they would have to fulfill certain criteria before they are allowed. For example the couple or lady involved would have to be past child bearing age and be financially stable. Also, if the couple has had older biological children then the consent of those children will have to be sought before the adoption process can commence.
However, Nigeria is not part of the Hague Adoption Convention policy that allows persons from other countries to come to Nigeria and adopt children and so inter-country adoption is not allowed. Some other countries, including some in African, who signed that convention policy allow inter-country adoption thus an American can go to South-Africa and adopt a child.
The source also told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY that it is mostly those from the eastern part of the country that adopt more than other tribes. Another reason why some families do not even consider adoption as an option is because of the present economic situation which is not encouraging.
About 50 per cent of the populace live in abject poverty, while those above the poverty line just mange to take care of their daily immediate and extended family needs. This was the position of Barrister Samson Okongwu, a legal practitioner in Abuja. “Some people who are already taking care of needs of both immediate and extended family members are barely able to keep up”.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY, Mr. Kehinde Sule, the director at the SOS Children Village, Gwagwalada, said that the SOS Children Village does not give out children for adoption but allows willing persons to sponsor the upkeep of children within the Village. “Here, the policy guiding us does not give room for adoption but we allow people to sponsor a child or children as they can afford.
It cost about N20,000 per year to sponsor a child and because it is financially tasking to train these kids until they are financially independent, we always welcome donations from well meaning Nigerians and organiations”. Some people adopt children and then go ahead to abuse, traffic or use them for ritual purposes, so we do not allow it”.
According to him, the children are brought to the home by the state welfare department and are screened for diseases before they are accepted into the home. This is to prevent the outbreak of an epidemic from spreading to the other children in the Home. Mr. Frank Obi and Dr. Ugo, both chairman and secretary respectively of the Brothers Across Nigeria (BAN), a non-governmental organisation, said that they were not against adoption but that the conditions must be right for them to adopt any child, and that they would prefer to sponsor children in orphanages.
Mrs. Esther Biobele Odesola, Founder of the City of Refuge Orpahnage spoke on the matter, stating that a lot of people are not aware of the process it takes to adopt children in Nigeria. “You have to go to the state social welfare department and apply for it. From there, the officials will contact the various orphanages to ascertain if they have children that are eligible for adoption.
All the children within an orphanage ought to be registered with the state social welfare department. As an orphanage, we cannot just give out children like that, because these children may not be well taken care of if they are given out without proper documentation as the children are not the biological children of these people”.
She also said that state social welfare department will first let the child be fostered by the prospective parents and watched for about six months to see if both child and would be parents are compatible. If the observation period elapses without any incident, legal adoption could then be approved.
The country director of IPAS, an NGO that is concerned with women’s health and advancement of women’s rights. Dr. Ejile Orji was of the opinion that the level of adoption in the country was low mostly due to traditional imperatives and was not affected by the economic situation of a family.
“Even families that can hardly take care of their needs still have babies and are able to survive, so it is not a case of the economics of a family. It is more of a traditional thing than religious. The Christians allow for adoption while the Muslims will only allow for fostering.
Nigerian women also see adoption as the last resort when all attempts to bear a child of their own have failed. Traditionally, those that are adopted do not have much say or respect as the biological children of the same family and this can have a damaging effect on the psyche of the child even till when he becomes an adult.