BY VIVIAN ONYEBUKWA
A UK based adoption agency, Literacy Integration & Formal Education (LIFE) Foundation, has reacted to the statement made by the UK Department for Education, which bans adoptions from abroad, which include Nigeria.
By virtue of the order, adoptions from Nigeria to the UK were suspended with effect from March 12, 2021.
Elvira Salleras, President, Literacy Integration & Formal Education (LIFE) Foundation in a statement made availble to The Sun Newspapers, insist that the law is gross abuse of adoption law.
Salleras currently owns an adoption agency with expertise and extensive experience in inter-country adoptions from Nigeria since 2006, working in partnership with Lagos and Anambra states.
“We feel constrained to address the issues raised in the said circular, using Lagos state, which has similar processes to those of Anambra state, as a reference point, to provide clarity and set the records straight”.
She stated that adoption in Nigeria is a matter of state and not federal law, which means that every state has its own adoption law, procedure and practice, which may differ significantly from those applicable in other states.
She described adoption in Lagos state as a subject of the Child’s Right’s Law 2007 as amended in 2015. “By this law, Lagos state could be said to have domesticated the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child even though Nigeria is not a party to the Hague convention. Indeed, it is an aberration to make reference to “the Nigerian adoption sys”, as this does not exist. Since adoption is a matter of state law, the adoption system in each state, stands and falls on its own merits”, Salleras said .
In responses to the concerns of the UK Government, she noted that the background of each child proposed for adoption is firmly established by a robust, formal method requiring various administrative documents and involving a transparent investigation process. This, according to her, results in the establishment of the child’s adoptability by the Ministry of Youth and Social Development (MYSD), and furthermore, the adoption process is facilitated by categorized procedures for both local and inter-country adoptions.
Listing the Adoption procedure for Nigerians living abroad, she stated that the first thing is the submission of application letter to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Youth and Social Development, Alausa, Lagos.
Followed by the submission of all required documents by prospective adopters or through foundation (including home study report and approval letter from country of domicile by appropriate authorities. Another requirement is administrative processing by the adoption unit and payment of N130,000 administrative fees, processing of all documents submitted for Honourable Commissioner’s approval, and collection of approval letter by the prospective adopters/foundation.
Others include notification of arrival of prospective adopters after a successful matching of child/children at a registered orphanage, invitation of prospective adopters with their updated documents through the foundation for the release of child/children for bonding, and finally, conducting bonding assessment, interview with the Director, Social Welfare, and finally legalization of the adoption at the family court.
“According to Section 121 Child’s Rights Law of Lagos state, 2007 (as amended in 2015), “an adoption order must not be granted in respect of a child unles the applicant has at least twelve months before the granting of the order, informed the social welfare officer of his intention to adopt the child.”
Arguing further, Salleras said, “It is just too easy to stay behind your desk and pass judgment without thinking of the consequences. Every orphanage is supervised by a social worker from the family’s social service within the jurisdiction. Every orphanage must render account of all the children on a monthly basis to the ministry. Every child found abandoned must be reported to the police”.
She stated that when a child is found, he must go through publication on the TV, announcement is made seeking for anyone who knows the child to come forward. Several weeks or even a month will be given. “It’s not possible for trafficked child to go to the ministry. The only child that is trafficked that you find in an orphanage was intercepted and forcefully taken from people who want to traffic them”.
“Those people because of the police, face double jeopardy because they end up growing up in the orphanage. Their matters are in the police and court for years and at the end of the day, they are no longer adoptable. It is unfortunate that people take decisions concerning children without considering the aftermath effect on them. You lock doors that could have been open to kids that have special needs. They are undesirable for Nigerians living here because they don’t have the means or specialization required to assist that child. Someone in UK will easily take that child because there is help around the corner or expertise and facilities. You close that door on wrong basis. I insist that a child that was trafficked cannot end up in the adoption system and all these are subject to verification”.
She lamented that UK government had been misinformed. “That is why you hear about child trafficking in Taraba state and you say that the entire Nigeria is involved in child trafficking. Why would anyone bring up child trafficking as a reason for not doing adoption? There are like night and day and having this type of attitude towards Nigeria makes nonsense of all the handiwork of social workers. They are very committed and social workers doing an excellent job in some states that I work with. The social workers job is a tough one because most times it is thankless a job. I was in the ministry the day the message came; you would have seen the way they reacted. It was like after all their struggles, it come to this. They should get to know the truth by getting to know how they do the job in the adoption space. Their method and process”.
Using Denmark as a case study, Elvira Salleras said that children adopted from Lagos are given automatic citizenship. “Because of this excellent adoption process of Lagos state immediately the children were adopted from Nigeria they are entitled to Danish citizenship for the simple reason, that they found Lagos processes to be in line with international best practices as required by the Hague convention. Lagos should be wining medal, and not been judged and condemned in this matter”.
“I understand their concerns which is that documents submitted to their embassies or consulate, a lot of them have issues. Lots of fake documents. People forge birth certificate and so on. I insist that a trafficked child cannot go through the process for adoption. Lagos state is the pacesetter in adoption and some other states have diligently followed in their footstep and they are all doing a good job”.
,”A child to be adopted in Lagos must have gone through a process, a police report must have been gotten after investigations have been concluded. Before adoption, once a prospective parent indicates interest and the social worker had okayed the child for adoption, a detailed investigative process will start and until that process is concluded and there is real evidence that no trace of that child background is found, then and only then will the child be put up for adoption. Because people take forged documents to the embassy does not mean that the whole thing in Lagos state is bad. Lagos is robust and comprehensive”.
In practice, this one-year period may be abridged by the Family Court judge in exceptional circumstances if the court considers that it is in the best interest of the child, she said”.