THE PROCESS OF ADOPTION IN GHANA
Family is the basic unit of life. However, there are quiet a significant number of people/children who do not have a family due to tragic experiences. Children who are orphans and without any known relatives or with known relatives who are not ready to accept responsibility for them or have families but such families are not capable of giving them care and are ready to give such children up for adoption. These children are given up for adoption to other relatives who are interested in caring for them or given to the state through the Department of Social Welfare who subsequently give them up for adoption to enable such children have a normal family to grow up in.
Adoption is a social, emotional and legal process that enables a child who may not be raised by his/her birth parents become a legal member of another family. Adoption transfers parental responsibilities for the child to the adoptive parent. The adoptive child then cuts ties with his birth parent and becomes a full member of the adoptive parent’s family. There are two types of adoption. In-country adoption and intercountry adoption.
Intercountry Adoption is where the adoptive parent does not reside in the country where the child is being adopted from. Upon adoption, the adopted child moves to the adoptive parents’ country and live with them permanently. There are two forms of intercountry adoption. Relative and non-relative adoption. Relative adoption is where the applicant and the intended adoptive child have affiliation through blood, adoption or marriage. Non-relative adoption is where the applicant has no affiliation with the intended adoptive child.
Which child is adoptable?
The adoptability of a child is determined by the Technical Committee of the Central Authority based on certain information on the said child. An adoptable child is:
- A child who has been abandoned or relinquished to the state by his/her parents, family or relatives and is in need of a permanent family.
- A child who cannot be kept in or reunited with his/her family.
- A child who is under a care order
- A child for whom relevant consent for adoption has been obtained.
- A child who has been declared adoptable by the Technical Committee of the Central Adoption Authority and his/her name and particulars have been entered into the Adoption Register.
Eligibility of an Applicant
A prospective adoptive parent at the time of adoption must be 25 years old but not more than 50 years of age and at least 21 years older than the intended adoptive child in the case of a non-relative adoption. In the case of a relative adoption, the prospective adoptive parents must be 21 years old but not more than 65 years old. Where the prospective adoptive parents do not meet the age requirements and exceptional circumstances can be shown to necessitate the adoption, Ghana’s Central Adoption Authority may consider the application. Mostly, intercountry adoption is permitted for only heterosexual married couples. The adoption can be done by the couple jointly or individually with the consent of the other spouse. Individuals resident in Ghana may adopt but a single male can adopt only in respect of his own son. The applicant must be medically fit, must not have been convicted of child related offences, must have a sustainable means of income, adheres to basic child rights, must have high moral character and integrity, must be capable of providing love, care and support for the child, must be eligible to adopt a child under the laws of his country/state of residence and must be in a country/state which is a party to the 1993 Hague Convention or a state that has signed a bilateral agreement with Ghana.
The process of adoption
The applicant’s eligibility and suitability to adopt is determined and approved by the Central Authority of the country of residence of the applicant. In Ghana, the Technical Committee of the Central Adoption Authority (CAA) determines and approves the eligibility and suitability of the applicant to adopt in Ghana.
The applicant goes under training in adoption related topics to enable the applicant understand and appreciate the process of adoption and care giving to the prospective adopted child.
A home study would be conducted by the Central Authority or an accredited adoption agency and a home study report prepared on the applicant. This report is based on background study and the circumstances of the applicant. This home study and the report are done in the country of residence of the applicant. The report is compiled to enable the Technical Committee of the CAA determine the eligibility of the applicant. An approval and the home study report is then sent to the CAA here in Ghana. The CAA will then evaluate the home study report and if approved, the applicant become eligible to adopt. The home study can take from three to six months depending on how quickly the adoption agency and the applicant work. It is worth noting that the applicant must be approved and suitable to adopt a child in his/her country of residence. Once the eligibility is approved, the applicant can obtain and complete application forms.
It is the Technical Committee of the Central Authority that matches an eligible applicant to an adoptable child. Once this is done, the Central Authority issues a Placement Proposal through the Central Authority or Accredited Adoption Agency in the country of residence of the applicant which may be accepted or rejected. If it is accepted, an arrangement would be made for the applicant to meet the child.
In intercountry adoption, the countries/states involved must agree to the adoption. Therefore, the Central Authority of the country of resident of the applicant and the Central Adoption Authority in Ghana must agree that the adoption should proceed considering the application and matched applicant with an intercountry adoptable child.
The adoption agency or the applicant is required to obtain approval from the Immigration Authority of the country of residence of the applicant that the adopted child would obtain permanent residency or depending on the status of the applicant, a grant of citizenship or a lawful resident status.
Prior to the completion of the adoption process, there is a need for the child to live with the applicant which would be supervised for a period of 3 months. This process is known as pre-adoption placement. The director of Social Welfare issues the Placement Authority for the entrustment of the child to the prospective adoptive parents. The Department of Social Welfare in the Region where the child resides supervises the pre-adoption placement of the child. It is required that for one month the applicant must physically live with the child after which a post placement report is prepared.
The applicant applies to the High Court within the region where the child resides for an Adoption Order and submits a copy of the said order to the CAA.
After the issuance of the adoption order, the applicant applies for post adoptive birth certificate for the child and submits a copy to the CAA.
The applicant applies for travel documents for the child and informs the Department of Social Welfare of his/her intention to take the adopted child out of the jurisdiction. The director then issues a Travel Clearance Certificate for the child to be taken out of the jurisdiction.
The CAA issues a Certificate of Conformity to the applicant without which the adoption would not be recognized as Hague Adoption by the country of residence of the applicant.
The Central Authority or Accredited Agency monitors the adoptive parent and submits reports on their performance to the Authority every 6 months in the first two years and annually for the subsequent three years.
Authorized fees for the adoption process are payable in bankers’ draft to the Department of Social Welfare, Head Office Accra.
- Home Study Report
- Letter of Approval from Central Authority of Receiving State
- Evidence of Marriage if applicable
- Birth Certificate(s)
- Medical / Health Certificate (Form 9)
- Police Clearance Report
- Evidence of employment / income
- Copy of National Identification
- Spousal Consent (Form 12), if applicable
- Two References Letters
- Evidence of Training as prospective adoptive parent
- Audio-Visual Recording or Pictures of Applicant, Applicants Home and Family
- Completed Statement Form from two Guardian ad Litem
- In case of relative adoption, proof of fifth level of relationship with child.
In-country adoption refers to the process of adopting a child within Ghana and living permanently with the child in Ghana. The process for in-country adoption is commenced at the Regional Office of the Department of Social Welfare. There are two types of in-country adoption which are:
- Relative adoption which is the process where the applicant and the child have filiation through blood, adoption or marriage.
- Non relative adoption which refers to the process where the applicant and the child do not have filiation.
This process is similar to the intercountry adoption process, the applicant’s eligibility and suitability to adopt is determined and approved by the Technical Committee of the Central Adoption Authority (CAA) in terms of age, gender etc. The applicant must obtain police clearance and undergo medical screening to ensure that the child is going into good hands and one capable of taking care of the child. A home study would be conducted and a report is made based on background study and the circumstances of the applicant and the child or children to be adopted. It is the Technical Committee of the Central Adoption Authority that matches an eligible applicant to an adoptable child. When an adoptable child is matched with the applicant, arrangement is then made for the applicant to meet the child. The applicant under goes training in adoption related topics to enable the applicant understand and appreciate the process of adoption and care giving to the prospective adopted child. The adoptable child is allowed to live with the applicant under supervision for a period of three (3) months. This process is known as pre-adoption placement. The director of Social Welfare issues the Placement Authority for the entrustment of the child to the prospective adoptive parents. The Department of Social Welfare in the Region where the child resides supervises the pre-adoption placement of the child. It is required that for one month the applicant must physically live with the child after which a post placement report is prepared. The applicant applies to the High Court within the region where the child resides for an Adoption Order and submits a copy of the order to the CAA. After the issuance of the adoption order, the applicant applies for post adoptive birth certificate for the child and submits a copy to the CAA. This completes the adoption process however the adopted child and adoptive parent would be monitored for a period of five (5) years after the adoption has been finalized.
- Evidence of Marriage, if applicable
- Birth Certificate
- Medical / Health Certificate
- Police Clearance Report
- Evidence of employment / income
- Two reference letters
- Copy of National Identification
- Spousal Consent if applicable with consent of spouse
- Statement of Commitment from two guardian ad litem
- In case of relative adoption, proof of relationship with the child
- Photographs and audio recordings of the family and home of the applicant
It must be noted that children are day in and day out adopted culturally within the country and the courts have addressed the essential requirements that need to be met before a cultural adoption becomes effective and legally binding on the parties. In Plange v. Plange (1977) 1 GLR 312, the Court of Appeal held that the essential requirements for a valid customary adoption were the expression of the adopter’s intention to adopt the infant before witnesses and the consent of the child’s natural parents and family to the proposed adoption – such consent, to be objectively ascertained or inferred from either their express words or conduct. Consequently, the consent of the adopter’s own family and the previous joint meeting of the families of the child and the adopter were unnecessary. The said case goes on to state that the legal effect of customary adoption is: a) That the adopted child acquires the status of a child of the marriage and enjoy the same bundle of rights including rights of inheritance, duties, privileges and obligations as the natural child and; b) The rights and liabilities of the natural parents of the adoptee become permanently extinguished and devolve on the adopting parents.
Also in the case of Tanor and Another v. Akosua Koko (1974) 1 GLR 451 the Court of Appeal set out the essential requirements for the adoption of an infant into a family in accordance with customary law as follows: “the consent of the child’s parents and the expression of the adopter’s intention to adopt the infant before witnesses.”
On the essentials of customary adoption, Sarbah wrote in 1896 that: “To make adoption valid, it must be done publicly, and the person who wishes to adopt must not only get the consent of the family and parents whose child is to be adopted, but he must clearly state before witnesses his desire and intention.” See Sarbah, Fanti Customary Laws (3rd ed.), p.34. This implies that the consent of the family of the adopter is not essential requirement for adoption.
There are other cases that affirm that adoption is known to customary law such as cases include but not limited to Poh v. Konamba (1957) 3 W.A.L.R. 74; Tanor v. Akosua Koko  1 GLR 451’; Plange v. Plange (1968) CC 88; as well as Saakyi Mami v. Dede Paulina [2005-2006] SCGLR 1116.
It is worth noting that customary adoption today is not recognized in respect of intercountry adoption because the adoption of the child must be recognized by the countries involved and the adoptive parent must prove that indeed the child has been adopted as between Ghana and the country where the child is being sent to.
Again, non relative adoption can only be done through the Department of Social Welfare and in respect of children under the care of the Department of Social Welfare.
In conclusion, though the process of adoption of a child is lengthy and cumbersome, it offers a great opportunity for couples, singles and families who intend to have children through other means to have children they can call their own and also offers children the opportunity to be raised within responsible and loving homes which is critical to the wellness and development of a child.
BY: VIDA NARKIE ODONKOR Esq.
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