Adoption in Ghana - What You Need To Know.
Ever since I watched Gabrielle Union’s interview with Oprah on the Super Soul Sunday show, I have been wondering about surrogacy in Ghana and whether it exists and if it does what it entails. An old friend of mine once told me of her desire to adopt a baby from Osu Children’s Home, this was some time ago and I can clearly remember thinking ‘ Oh then all she has to do is to see the orphanage’s management for paperwork and payments if any.” That was my thinking until recently when I had a chat with a lawyer friend of mine who specializes in helping Ghanaians and foreigners adopt a child from Ghana- the right way. What I thought I knew about adopting a child in Ghana was non-sylla, if you catch my drift. I knew literally next to nothing.
I have also had an e-chat with a gynecologist friend of mine about IVF treatment and surrogacy in Ghana because honestly, some of us know next to nothing about the available treatment for infertility. It also seems to be a hush-hush topic as though we are ashamed to talk about medical breakthroughs which can lead to the manifestation of our prayer breakthrough. Couples who are also unable to conceive their own child face so much stigmatisation from society and the lack of conversations around infertility and adoption has created a negative and ignorant environment around these topics.
My next post will focus on IVF treatment and Surrogacy in Ghana which you should look out for or subscribe to my newsletter to be the first in the know.
This is going to be a very detailed and informative post, if you have any questions or enquiries you can post them after the post or contact me on social media.
NOQ - What are the first steps involved in the adoption process in Ghana for a Ghanaian couple when they consult with you?
CN Esq - Well, first of all, it must be said that there have recently been some changes in the adoption laws in Ghana which stipulate that adoptions can only be facilitated by accredited adoption agencies. Unfortunately currently, there are no adoption agencies in Ghana. This is because although the new laws are in effect, they haven’t been implemented yet which makes it difficult to understand the role of a lawyer in the adoption process or the general way forward in adoptions in Ghana. Its been a confusing last couple of years however the professionals who work in adoptions are still focused on assisting couples interested in adopting.
Despite these difficulties, I can answer your questions through my previous experiences and say that one of the first questions I ask the Prospective Adoptive Parent (PAP) is whether it’s a local or international adoption. There are cases whereby a Ghanaian couple want to adopt a child and then immediately travel with him/her overseas and the rules of adoption involved in that is different from adopting the child to stay locally in Ghana. If a PAP wants to adopt a child I have to ensure the couples are in agreement to adopt a child. A wife has to show her husband is aware of the adoption and vice versa. A married person can’t adopt on their own without the knowledge of their partner.
There are certain rules around the categories of persons who can adopt in Ghana;
• If you are single you have to be a Ghanaian and female.
• Anyone who wants to adopt must be at least 25years old and 21 years older than the child he or she wants to adopt or the applicant is a relative of the child and 21 years of age.
• If you aren’t a Ghanaian and are single you have to be resident in Ghana.
• Single men cannot adopt a child in Ghana unless it’s his biological sonor special circumstances such as the unfitness of the mother of the child. An example is whereby he has a child with a woman he doesn’t marry but later wants to adopt the child even though the mother of his child has remarried. Or perhaps you never knew you had a child and upon knowing you decide to adopt the child, then you can adopt.
These are some of the personal questions I have to ask the couple/individual. Most of these questions can be found in the adoption application form which the Department of Social Welfare requires all PAPs to fill. Some of the questions on the adoption application form include whether the PAP is also medically, financially and mentally fit to take care of the adopted child.
Its important to note that there’s an age limit on who can adopt a child in Ghana;
• The age limit for a Ghanaian is 55years old
• The age limit for a non-Ghanaian is 50years old
• If the child you want to adopt is your relative ( nephew, niece, etc) its 65years old.
These are the preliminary questions I ask my clients before moving to the next steps.
NOQ- So assuming your Ghanaian client has checked off and is eligible to adopt which agency should they go to to start the process and how’s that done?
CN Esq- That’s the Department of Social Welfare. One thing we need to clarify first is that, Ghana has signed on to the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption ( the Hague Convention) which is an international agreement between several countries on dealing with inter country adoption and children’s rights. Ghana signed on during the NDC time by the former Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur who incorporated parts of the Hague Convention rules into Ghana’s Children’s (Amendment) Act, 2016. However with the change in government, there wasn’t enough time for her to implement it the way she envisioned it. It’s taken the new government and Gender Ministry some time to figure out how to implement and enforce the Hague rules. Enforcement has been tough so far.
Before the amendment of the Children’s Act 1993, couples or individuals will have to complete an application form at Social Welfare which has the questions I shared earlier. Once the form is filled, Social Welfare will conduct a home study to assess the living conditions under which the child will be raised in. Before the amendment of the Act, there were no official fees for adoption in Ghana but now there are to be official fees in accordance with the new law.
Once your home is assessed and meets the criteria, you will be placed on the adoption list. An adoption application allows you to state your preference, in terms of the kind of child that you are interested in adopting. You can state your preferred age, sex etc. Once a PAP has been matched with their preferred child, the PAP is required to undergo a bonding period with the child for one month. The bonding stage takes place in the PAPs home and after a month, a social worker from the social welfare Department pays a visit to assess if bonding has taken place.
If after the bonding period the PAP doesn’t feel the adoption will be a right fit, the PAP can reject the match and will be placed back on the adoption list. If the PAPs are happy with their match, they will receive an approval from the Social Welfare to go complete the process in court. Once the court has had a chance to review the court application for an adoption for the child and find everything to be in order, the court will grant an adoption order. Once an adoption order is granted, the applicant assumes the parental rights, duties, obligations and liabilities of the adopted child with respect to custody, maintenance and education. The adoption order is then used to acquire a birth certificate, stating one’s name as the parent. The granting of an adoption order completes the adoption process. This process can take six months or less for completion if the process goes as planned.
NOQ - What of international couples who want to adopt from Ghana or Ghanaians who want to adopt and travel with the child?
CN Esq - As explained earlier, the Hague Convention has set out rules for inter country adoption. Due to slow and tedious enforcement of these rules in Ghana, it’s a cumbersome process which demands a huge amount of follow-ups and bulldozing your way through to get officials to sign papers for presenting at the relevant embassies.
The Adoption Regulation 2018 was recently passed to operational the Hague rules introduced by the amended Childrens Act.
Because of the introduction of these new laws, I have to explain to my clients both the old laws and the new laws as we have not really seen the new laws in action yet and I cannot be certain how it will be applied. Its just best to explain to them what used to be and then explain to them what the changes we’re expecting will be. Most of my clients are Americans who want to adopt in Ghana. They usually come through an American adoption agency based in the States who I have partnered with and once they complete the US processes ( complete the I800A and i800 forms and a homestudy report) for adoption in Ghana, they consult me for the Ghanaian adoption process.
The Children’s (Amendment) Act, 2016 and the Adoption Regulation 2018 have introduced a lot of changes with the way adoption works in Ghana. For example, there are provisions in these new laws which only allow foreign applicants to only adopt children who have been previously unsuccessfully adopted in Ghana. This is worrying as it could mean that only children who have been rejected by other local PAPs can be adopted by foreign PAPs. It also could mean that only older children may be available to be adopted by foreign PAPs. On the other hand this prioritises Ghanaian PAPs on the adoption list.
Intercountry adoptions are similar to local adoptions. The major difference is that intercountry adoptions are country specific and so what a PAP has to go through before they can apply in Ghana depend on the country the PAP is applying from. For example, in the US, PAPs have to be found eligible to adopt in the US first. They have to go through certain processes which could last about 3 or 4 months. Once they receive the approval from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service , at that point, they can then apply to adopt from Ghana. Once they apply, the process going forward is similar to the local adoption however a foreign PAPs adoption process is completed once they have obtained a visa for the child and traveled with the child back home.
Unfortunately, this hasn’t always been the case. For example, in the US, most applicants completed and adoption and obtained a court order only to be denied a visa for the child for improprieties in the adoption process. This problem has been taken care of with the introduction of the i-800 and the i-800A adoption application forms. SO in the US, an applicant, using these application forms, will have to assess the chances a child will be granted a visa before the adoption is completed. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will use these forms to assess a child’s eligibility to immigrate to the US and it is only after an approval from the USCIS that a PAP is allowed to complete an adoption in Ghana and obtain a court adoption order.
NOQ- Where is the child to be adopted coming from? An orphanage?
CN Esq - Under the old process, PAPs could for example out of compassion identify a homeless child and decide to adopt him/her with the help of the Department of Social Welfare. Others also went to the Department of Social Welfare whose job it is to identify adoptable children who reside in orphanages or foster homes and match them with the PAPs. However the new law states that there must be a Central database of all orphaned, abandoned or children legible for adoption. Once a PAP expresses the desire to adopt, the database will be used to identify a child that matches a PAPs preference. Unfortunately, currently, this database is yet to be developed. As explained, the implementation of the new laws has proved a difficult task which the Department of Social Welfare has explained that they are currently working on.
A majority of adopted children are from orphanages. Some parents also give up their children up for adoption citing poverty as the reason for their actions. However in Ghana, poverty is not an accepted reason for giving up ones child for adoption and the Department of Social Welfare has be tasked with counselling and assisting parents to improve their lives so they do not offer up their children to be adopted solely because of poverty. This unfortunately is a difficult task and some parents still relinquish their parental rights to the Department of Social Welfare insisting that they are not capable to taking care of the children. As the Department cannot force a person to parent a child they do not want, the Department is forced to place the child in an orphanage or put the child up for adoption.
NOQ- At what age do couples prefer to adopt a child? Is there a common age?
CN Esq - Most Ghanaian couples prefer children between the ages of 0 to 2. Older couples prefer to adopt for slightly older children. In certain instances, the Department have only opted to give older children to older couples as adoption is done in the best interest of the child and sometimes, its just better an older child is adopted by older PAPs. Foreign PAPs however seem to prefer children between the ages of 5 to 12 years old.
NOQ - What is the adoption rate in Ghana as compared to other African countries?
CN Esq- There has been 1181 adoptions between the US and Ghana from 1999-2017 according to the chart below. Ethiopia has banned inter country adoption. Other African countries have longer bonding periods between adoptive parents and the adoptee. This has thrown a lot of attention on Ghana due to the shorter duration for bonding with your adopted child.
NOQ - How much does it cost in lawyer fees during the adoption process?
CN Esq - I wouldn’t say there’s an exact fee that a lawyer charges for an adoption as It’s on a case by case basis. Each client is different and they all come to see me at different stages of adoption and so the fee quote will be based on where in the adoption they have reached. Out-of-pocket expenses can also vary due to the various tasks that have to be performed. However what I can say is that the average fee a lawyer could charge for an adoption is GHC5,000 and this could go as high as GHC15,000 for local applicants. For intercountry applicants, the fees are different since the tasks that come with it are different as well. Lawyer do not dictate what the foreign adoption agencies can charge an applicant. In the States for example, costs for adoption could range between $10,000 to $30,000.
Fees paid to lawyers are different from the fees paid to the Department to complete an adoption. Previously, there were no fees for adopting in Ghana for Ghanaians. Certain expenses however had to be borne by the PAPs during the adoption process. However, with the introduction of the new law comes the introduction of fees for adoption. We have not been informed of what these new fees will be but a draft proposal of what the fees will be have stated that local applicants may have to pay at least GHC 3,000 while intercountry applicants may have to pay at least $3,000. None of this information has however been confirmed yet.
NOQ- Do you have Ghanaian couples not going through the legal process to adopt a child?
CN Esq – In Ghana, there is a lot of informal adoption being done. Some PAPs think that just taking an abandoned child home without actually going through the legal process is alright. In fact, some of them aren’t aware that there are legal processes that must be done to formalize the adoption process. I have heard of instances where abandoned babies in hospitals were “adopted” by some couples because the couples paid for the medical expenses of the abandoned baby and so claimed ownership of the child. There are several instances of couples not formalizing adoption process. Sometimes, parents give away their children to other family members, and these family members accept the children and claim the children as their own without actually formalizing the process. Aside from this being technically illegal, it creates future problems especially where the parents would want the child to go to school or immigrate outside the country and then are required by law to submit documents proving biological connections to the child.
NOQ - Final comments on adoption in Ghana.
CN Esq- The adoption process in Ghana needs to be more streamlined and transparent. The implementation of the new laws must be a priority for the Ministry of Gender and must be attended to right away. The staff and social workers at the Department must also be assisted with all the necessary training required as the new laws are much different from the old laws and must not be underestimated so we do not repeat the mistakes of the old laws. The fees associated with adoption in Ghana must also be made clear to avoid confusion and illegalities. I strongly believe that should the Ministry be able to implement the new laws as intended, a positive light will be shed on adoptions in Ghana and the stigma behind adoption in Ghana, the people who want to adopt and the people who work in adoptions may disappear.