Public Perception of Child Adoption Among Parents In Nigeria

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Perception of child adoption among parents/care-givers of children attending pediatric outpatients’ clinics in Enugu, South East, Nigeria

 

Adoption could be defined as the official transfer through the legal system of all the parental rights that a biological parent has to a child, along with an assumption by the adopting parents of all of the parental rights of the biological parents that are being terminated and are assumed in their entirety by the adoptive parents, including the responsibility for the care and supervision of the child, its nurturing and training, its physical and emotional and financial support.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the child of 1989, adoption is recognized as one of the forms of alternative care for children who are unable to remain in their family environment  and as such, adoption serves as a means of prevention of child abuse including child trafficking, and equally enables the adopted children access good education and prevents them from being placed in institutions.

Human trafficking is a major human rights violation, and the United Nations in the year 2000 put up the Palermo protocols, titled “Protocol to prevent, suppress, and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children”. Article 3(a) of this document defines child trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons by means of threat or the use of force or other means of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include at a minimum: Prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practice similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

Adoption in social circle plays the role of legal placement of a homeless child in a childless home. Such provision of care by adults other than the natural parents has occurred throughout history. Adoption was recorded as early as 2350 BC, and Oedipus and Moses (biblical) provide examples of substitute care. In Nigeria, although some learned writers posit that adoption is practiced under native law and custom, it would appear that what they described as adoption is, upon a careful analysis, is either guardianship or fostering or some other peculiar indigenous concepts.

Thus, adoption confers on the child all the rights vis-à-vis his adoptive parent (s) as if the child had been born to them in lawful wedlock as well as imposes on the adoptive parent (s), parental responsibility equivalent to that of the natural parents of the child.

International adoption is currently on the increase worldwide. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and many other international children’s organizations promote the idea that un- parented children should be kept at all costs in their country of origin. However, as international adoptions began to expand, UNICEF focused increasingly on its alleged problems, claiming that adoption abuses involving baby buying, fraud and kidnapping were widespread, and subsequently, UNICEF called increasingly for policy changes to limit international adoption.

International adoption is under siege, with the number of children placed dropping each of the last several years, and many countries imposing severe new restrictions. Key forces mounting the attack claim the child human rights mantle, arguing that such adoption denies heritage rights, and often involves abusive practices.

Many nations assert rights to hold on to the children born within their borders, and others support these demands citing subsidiarity principles. But, children’s most basic human rights, at the heart of the true meaning of subsidiarity, are to grow up in the families that will often be found only in international adoption. These rights should trump any conflicting state sovereignty claims.

Study has shown that trans-racial adoption is a veritable means of providing homes for waiting children whose self-esteem is at least as high as that of non-adopted children and whose adjustment is highly satisfactory.

In Africa, some countries have been noted for international adoption including Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Mali, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Uganda, and Burkina Faso.

In Nigeria, particularly, aside the adoption of children legitimately by Nigerians and some foreign nationals, cases of child abuse such as the use of under aged children for street hawking, alms begging, and house help remains a challenge despite the domestication and adoption of the Child Right Law by several states in the Federal Republic.  However, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and other related matters (NAPTIP) was set up also by the Federal Government on the 8 th of August, 2003 to address the scourge of trafficking in persons in Nigeria and its attendant human rights abuses in its entire ramifications.

While countries like China, South Korea, Guatemala, Russia, Romania, and Ukraine have tightened up eligibility rules making it a lot difficult for international adoption, and instead promoting domestic adoption.

The near absence of well-defined policy and legal framework to guide adoption in Africa has encouraged inter-country adoption in Africa, especially in those countries that are not signatories to the Hague Convention (a treaty, which provides a blue print for safe international adoptions of children). It is also possible that poverty is a major drive for people to give up their babies for material wealth.

In Nigeria, the earliest statute on adoption was the 1965 Adoption Law of the former Eastern Region.  This was followed by the adoption edict of 1968 of Lagos State.  Today, many states in Nigeria, especially in the south, have adoption statutes.

However, in 2003, the National Assembly enacted the Child’s Right Act. Part XII of the Act made comprehensive provisions and harmonizes a uniform legislation on rights and welfare of children across Nigeria. The law also made a superseding declaration that its provisions supersede any other statutory provisions on the same subject matter.  Many states in Nigeria have adopted the Nigerian Child’s Right Act and subsequently modified their adoption laws there from.

The factors that necessitate the adoption of a child range from the mere fact of being childless to the desire to replace a dead child, to acquire a companion for an only child, to stabilize a marriage, to legitimate an illegitimate child, to sustain a particular line of descent, to rescue a child in an irreversible situation of abandonment, or to relieve parents who are unable to take care of their child.

In Nigeria, a child is regarded as social security to their parents. And so, every family desires a child. In situations where a couple faces infertility or desirous of a male child for propagation of the family name, every medical means both orthodox and traditional could be applied to remedy the situation. With recent trend of globalization and influence of Western culture in Africa, Nigeria inclusive, child adoption is fast becoming socially and culturally acceptable. This is also supported by the fact that the cost of in – vitro fertilization and intra-gamete transfer is out of reach of many prospective adopters making the choice of child adoption a more preferable option.

A lot of misconceptions and ignorance, however, abound concerning the child adoption process in our society. Ezugwu and colleagues  have reported that majority of infertile women in Enugu, South East Nigeria have heard of child adoption, but only a minority knew its real meaning, its legality, and the process it entails.

Similarly, Omosun and co-worker  in Lagos, South West Nigeria made similar observation with about 85.7% of the respondents in their series having heard about child adoption while about half of them knew the correct meaning of the term child adoption. In the same study, the adoption rate was reported to be as high as 13.9%. Similar findings have also been reported in Sokoto, North West, Nigeria among female infertile patients.

Also, Oladokun and co-workers  have shown that adoption as an alternative to infertility in South West Nigeria is not widely practiced because of some noted barriers including cultural practices, stigmatization, financial implications, and bottlenecks. They suggested measures like advocacy, community mobilization, and enactment of supportive laws that will protect all parties involved as likely to curb the negative attitudes.
However, a lot of middlemen presently abound who persuade prospective adoptive parents to avoid the procedural bottlenecks of adoption and adopt babies through unauthorized agents who keep pregnant girls illegally till their deliveries. The practice was actually started with a good motive by philanthropists who discouraged young pregnant girls not to abort their babies, kept them until they are delivered. And subsequently gave out the babies for adoption. Charlatans have now capitalized on this and turned it into a business.

In our environment, proper harmonization of adoption process with reference to the private sector is still evolving. Most adoptive couples may never have had the opportunity of having pre-and/or post-placement counseling. Some authors have reported low marital adjustments among adopting couples in terms of the roles each should under-take and recommended counseling so as to help such couples adjust favorably to their marital roles.

Aniebue and co- worker  then recommended that emphasis should be placed on post-adoption care, especially in developing countries where complex social and logistic factors militate against adoption practice.

Similarly, many adoptive parents equally complain of certain barriers to choosing adoption as management option to infertility. These barriers were noted to include fear of disloyalty by the child, future claim by the biological parents, lack of genetic linkage with the child, and religious reasons.  Other fears are genetically inherited traits. These concerns could best be handled by counseling prior to the consummation of adoption. A lot of misconceptions and wrong information concerning child adoption still abound in our society. Also, fear of confidentiality makes prospective adoptive parents to patronize unregistered adoptive agents who contract the adoption for them at very exorbitant rates without proper pre-placement medical examination and no official records. Chukwu Larry (2020) in his paper titled adoption of children in Nigeria under the child’s Right Act 2003 had noted that social stigmatization is a major factor contributing to the unpopularity of adoption in Nigeria.

Some couples have adopted babies that have either hemoglobinopathy or pediatric retroviral infection without prior knowledge to mention but a few. While a few couples could adjust and face the challenges thereof, others may resort to child abandonment as an alternative with its attendant risks to the child in question.

There is also dearth of non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) including support groups on child adoption in our society for adequate support of adopting couples, especially during trial periods.

Project Topics And Materials On Child Adoption

With the rising trend of couples seeking child adoption in Nigeria, there is need to ascertain the baseline perception of adoption. Findings from the study will guide appropriate recommendations, which will ultimately improve the practice of child adoption in Nigeria.

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