Some Nigerians have called for a review of child adoption laws to discourage individuals or couples from patronising baby factories and other illegal outlets to adopt children.
The respondents from some north-central states made the appeal while fielding questions to a survey on child adoption and Child Rights Act conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
They described the current child adoption laws as tough, thus forcing desperate childless couples to patronise baby factories.
Some of them particularly frowned against the existence of baby factories, describing them as “morally absurd’’.
They urged governments to focus on the genuineness of the party or parties interested in adopting children and strive to limit the complex procedures associated with adoption so as to encourage those interested to do so.
“If we can review the law and make child adoption easier, there will be less desperation and owners of baby factories will not have much patronage,’’ Mrs Helen Adoga, a Director in the Plateau Social Development Ministry, said.
She alleged that couples seeking to adopt a child were being forced to bribe some government officials, and described such a situation as “bad and not in the interest of the child’’.
The director also urged government officials to bestow more confidence on the couples adopting the children and cautioned against a situation where the officials constantly spy on the parents.
“Such checks and harassment show a lack of confidence. When that happens, the adopting parents usually feel that they are not being trusted to take care of the child or children,’’ she said.
Mrs Beatrice Bainta, who runs an NGO concerned with protecting vulnerable children, however, said that such checks are necessary to protect and safeguard the adopted child against abuse.
“Some couples could pose as childless, but may just be interested in getting a child they want to use for evil activities.
“When people come seeking for children to adopt, it is difficult to know their motives. It is when you keep a constant eye on what is happening to such `government children’ that you can know those in good hands,’’ she said.
Bainta, however, endorsed the need to ease the process of adopting children so that couples with genuine interest would not be discouraged.
Mr Samuel Iorliam, a secondary school teacher in Makurdi, who also decried the tough conditions attached to child adoption, also urged the government to relax the stringent measures attached to adopting babies.
“Most couples want to be given the sole right of looking after babies they have adopted, but, very often, social workers keep invading their residents to be sure the babies are being cared for.
“Normally, one has to sign that such checks will be allowed at any time. Most couples will not want that and would rather prefer a situation where there are no prying eyes `disturbing’ them,’’ he said.
He urged the government to give more freedom to the adopting parents so as to make them “psychologically relaxed’’.
But, while other states worry about the law, the Niger State Government says it has no specific law permitting child adoption by individuals or childless couple in the state.
Malam Mustapha Yunusa, the Director, Child Development, Ministry of Women and Gender Affairs, told NAN in Minna that Islamic law does not promote child adoption in most states in the North, including Niger.
“Child adoption contravenes the tenets of Islam. It is not permissible,’’ he said.
Yunusa explained that individuals or childless couples were only allowed to apply to the ministry, through the orphanage, for fostering of a child.
“The procedure to follow, if anyone wants to apply for a child, is to first register his or her intention with the ministry.
“The applicant will fill a mandate form signed by a magistrate before it is approved by the ministry.
“The form will contain a court report of the history of the child – where and when the child was picked and brought to the orphanage,” he said.
According to him, the ministry will, thereafter, carry out background checks of the person seeking to foster the child such as his or her income, social life and the kind of environment he or she lives in.
“These checks are necessary for the security of the child; the government must be certified before handing over the child to the fostering parents,’’ the director said.
He said that a social worker would be assigned to visit the home where the child lives, from time to time, to ensure the welfare of the child, adding, however that the child must not be allowed to know he/she was being fostered.
The director said that once the child reaches 15 years of age, he completely belongs to his foster parents.
He, however, noted that major decisions concerning the child such as change of his/her school, travelling abroad and relocating the child to another state must be made known to the ministry before taking such decisions.
On whether the child has equal right as the biological children to inherit property of the foster parents, the director said that the la, however,rcy for the adopted child.
“The foster child is only entitled to some percentage of property willed on his/her name by the foster parents in the event of death so that the child will have something to sustain him/her,’’ Yunusa said.
He however said that fostering of a child could be revoked if the ministry receives information that the child was being maltreated by the foster parents.
Meanwhile, the Niger Ministry of Justice has domesticated the Child Rights Act in 2010 to further protect the rights of children.
The law also protects children in the custody of foster parents or biological parents or relations.
According to Mr Nasara Dan-malam, the state Commissioner for Justice, the child rights law has helped the state to have its own child right law.
Similarly, stakeholders in Nasarawa State have called on the state government to implement the child right law to protect children from abuse by their biological or foster parents as well as relations.
The stakeholders emphasised the need to protect the Nigerian child from abuse and exploitation, and also to ensure he was adequately catered for, and given education to enable him or her compete for opportunities.
Mrs Vivian Efiom, Nasarawa state Coordinator of SMILE, an NGO, called on the state government to ensure proper implementation of the Child Rights Act and make adequate budgetary provision to support victims of such abuse.
Similarly, Ms Helen Ombugadu, Proprietress of Habo Children Orphanage Home, Lafia, told NAN that she was working with some government agencies to protect adopted children from being abused by the foster parents.
Ombugadu said that the home currently hosts 13 orphans, but declared that none would be given for adoption.
“We do not give children out for adoption. I personally pay their school fees, feed them and provide for their upkeeps without any support from the government.
Mrs Esther Abga, a staff with ‘Gidan Bege Orphanage Home’, however, said that they receive support from the state government on monthly basis for the upkeep of orphans in the home.
But she said that the home does not give the orphans out for adoption.
“The children are orphans, but we do not give them out to anyone. We train them up to tertiary institutions until they can be on their own.
Mrs Hazel John, Principal Staff Officer in charge of Mumuna Katai Orphanage Home, Lafia, told NAN that the orphanage homes give orphans out for adoption after the interested person fulfil the necessary conditions.
“Usually, a committee set up by the state government is responsible for assessing persons interested in adopting orphans. Once the applicant fulfils the conditions, he is given the custody of the child,’’ he said.
Mrs Yomi Adagazu, the state Director, Social Welfare, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, said that government supports orphanage homes, adding that some receive such support on monthly basis.
She said that the conditions for adopting babies was “not so tough’’ as speculated.
“All one requires is credibility and a proof that the baby will be in good hands,’’ she said.