By Success Oghosa Osasogie

Child adoption according to Black’s Law Dictionary is “the statutory process of terminating a child’s legal rights and duties towards the natural parents and substituting similar rights and duties towards adoptive parents.

The Child Welfare League of America states that Child Adoption is a process whereby an individual assumes the parenting for another and in so doing permanently transfers all the rights and responsibilities along with filiation from the biological parents to the adoptive.

Simply put, adoption is the process whereby the rights, responsibilities and duties of a natural/biological parents are transferred from them towards the adoptive parents who assume the role of a natural parent. The adoptive parents are to care for the child as though he/she were their biological child. The child assumes all the rights and privileges of a natural child. There are instances, however, where a child is adopted by parents who are unable to give birth to a child. When they eventually give birth to their own children there is every tendency for attention and parental affection to move from adoptive child to the biological child. This is one great issue of concern in Africa.

A child according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child defines a child as any person below the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable to the child a majority is attained earlier. This was ratified by Nigeria in 1991 and domesticated in 2003. The Child Rights Act defines a child as a person under the age of 18 and this has been domesticated by most states in Nigeria.

Section 129 Child rights Act provides that the following persons may apply for adoption:
a. Married couple where-
i. Each of them have attained the age of twenty five(25) years, and
ii. There is a order authorizing them jointly to adopt a child; or

b. A married person if he has obtained consent of his spouse, as required under s4ction 132 of the Act;or

c. A single person if he has attained the age of thirty five (35) provided the person is same sex with the child;or
d. In all cases, adopters must be person found suitable to adopt a child by the investigating officer

Section 128 of the Child’s Rights Act provides:
a. The parents or guardian of a child whose consent has been obtained.
b. A child, who is abandoned, neglected, persistently abused, ill-treated and there are compelling reasons for such child to be adopted.

Yes a single or unmarried person may adopt a child provided he/she has attained the age of thirty five (35) and same sex with the child. In practice, the number of persons seeking adoption is higher but applications from single applicants are rising nowadays.

S 126 of the Child’s Right Act makes provision for this and states as follows:
1. An application in the prescribed form to the Court accompanied with the following;
i. A Marriage certificate or sworn declaration of marriage where it is a couple
ii. Birth certificate or sworn declaration for each applicant
iii. Two passport photographs of each applicant
iv. Medical certificate of fitness from a Government hospital
v. Such other requirements or documents as the court may require.
2. On receipt of the application, the court shall order that investigation be carried out by:
i. A child development officer;
ii. A supervision officer; and
iii. Such other person to enable the court assess the suitability of the applicant(s).

However, in practice subject to the Child’s Law of any State where adoption may be carried out, the following should be noted:
1. Applicant to forward a letter to the Ministry of Youth and Social Development(varies for each state)
2. File will be opened, necessary documents verified and Applicant invited for pre-adoption counseling
3. The home of applicant will be visited and necessary pictures taken for verification
4. Applicant will face an adoption panel and if successful an Adoption Approval shall be granted accordingly.
5. The child to be adopted is sought out, familiarized with then request for approval of that child is sought and obtained. S 131(1)(e)CRA
6. The ministry will send all relevant documents to the court and court may decide whether to hear the application in Chambers or open court
7. The court will if satisfied with the application and relevant documents, shall direct a Child Development Officer or Welfare officer to investigate the suitability of the applicant adopting the child
8. If the court is satisfied with the report of the Welfare Officer,an adoption order shall be made and the court shall have regard as far as practicable to the wishes of the parents or guardian as to the religious upbringing of the child.
9. Last and important stage which persons sometimes skip is for the adoption to be registered in the Adopted Children Register and Register of Births (National Population Commission). S 142 CRA
Please note that a step parent cannot adopt the child of the spouse. S 131(2) CRA

United Nations Convention on The Rights of a Child
Child’s right Act 2003
● All rights, duties, obligations, and liabilities of the future CUSTODY of the child are vested in the adoptive parents
● If the adoptive parents dies INTESTATE, an adoptive child must be treated as a child born to the adopter.

The paramount consideration of the court in making an adoption order is the best interest of the child throughout his childhood and the need to safeguard and protect the welfare of the child S. 126(3) (a).

1. Cultural belief/ Superstition: The belief that an adopted child is less of a child and cannot be likened to “your own child”. So much emphasis is placed on couples having their biological children directly from the womb of the woman. A man without children is advised to take a second wife rather than opt for adoption because a man will prefer a biological child to continue his lineage and preserve his name. The tide is, however, gradually changing, even though slow.
2. Lack of understanding/Ignorance: most persons are yet to understand the concept of adoption and what it entails, hence the need for awareness. Adoption is not only for couples who are unable to birth a child; so many children out there neglected, abandoned and without care are in need of a place called home. So many with dreams with no parental figure to guide and lead them in the right path.
3. Fear: most persons are scared adopting because they are not so sure of the circumstances surrounding the birth of a child. Some are scared the child might come from a family with traces of madness, epilepsy or any form of diseases that could be dangerous.
4. Most women want to experience the joy of motherhood by birthing her own baby, carrying such child in her womb for nine months.

It is important to note that adoption is not restricted to couples without children. There is a proper procedure to follow as rightly stated above to avoid springing up of surprises later in future.

Success Osasogie is a Lagos based legal practitioner. She is a also a professional volunteer and a member of Flemer Project Initiative; an organization passionate about representing indigent prisoners probono.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *