Friday January 29 2016

Inter-country adoption may be necessary but should be regulated

By Stuart Oramire

I write in reference to an article in the Daily Monitor of January 16, titled Make Inter-country Adoption Process easier.

First, it is noteworthy that the author seems to appreciate the importance and pressing need for an independent children’s authority as proposed in the Children (Amendment) Bill, 2015.

Just like the author, on December 17, 2015, I was in the gallery as Parliament debated the Children’s Bill.

Whereas it is true that a good number of legislators were fervently opposed to the reduction of the fostering period from 36 months to a mere six months, it is erroneous for the author to insinuate that the legislators’ disapproval was without basis and devoid of any evidence.
Inter-country adoption in Uganda is recognised and provided for under Section 46 of the Children Act, Cap 59. However, subsection (1) places great emphasis on exceptional circumstances for which a Ugandan child can be adopted by a non-Ugandan.

The foregoing section should be read together with Article 21(b) of the Convention on the Rights of Children, which Uganda ratified and views inter-country adoption as the last alternative means of child care where other child care means may not be available or suitable.
More so, although Uganda is yet to ratify the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of inter-country adoption, even as the foremost international instrument on inter-country adoption, in its preamble, this convention still recognises, as a matter of priority, the need for appropriate measures to enable the child to remain in the care of his or her family of origin.

The inference in all these provisions is that whereas inter-country adoption may be beneficial to children who are extremely deprived, and we have a good number of these, it is important as a country that we first exhaust the available local measures for child care as the safest guarantee and most suitable means of child care.

Inter-country adoption should be the last resort of alternative care in the most extreme cases of deprivation.

The question then is; why should we rush to ease a process that should actually be given only the last consideration?

More thought should instead be given to the strengthening of policies such as alternative care frameworks- kinship care, foster care, local adoptions, closer supervision of child care homes, establishing a child fund that assists orphans, vulnerable children and children in child headed households, etc.

It must be noted that over the past few years, there has been unprecedented increase in inter-country adoptions using the leeway process of legal guardianship.

The financial incentives embedded in facilitation of legal guardianship and adoption is making the process unethical with increasing cases of child trafficking that dispose these children to countless dangers, including organ trade.
For example, countries such as Rwanda, Kenya, DRC, Liberia and Benin have in the past suspended inter-country adoption because of the associated dangers until appropriate mechanisms were put in place to mitigate these dangers.

The Convention on the Rights of Children Committee itself wrote in its 2008 concluding observations to Uganda raising concerns on the rising numbers of legal guardianship applications.

The committee advised Uganda to expeditiously ratify the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, which establishes minimum standards, safeguards and procedures for adoption between member states.

It is good that the author talks about adoption agencies to monitor the adoption processes. All these are mechanisms needed to protect our children from vulnerabilities, both real and imagined.

Finally, the author of the article should have come across precedents where courts of law have disregarded the residence test of 36 months in exceptional circumstances as a way of protecting the cardinal principle of the best interests of the child.

The bottom line here is that every responsible State must, within the available resources, provide for its citizenry, including the children. However, this may not be tenable for even developed countries.

This gap is what creates room for the inter-country adoption process. This process should be a stop gap measure. No sane country can create a process that makes it easier to lose its citizens to another country.

Ms Oramire is a child rights advocate.