by Oluwakemi Olugbode
CHILD’S RIGHT LAW
The United Nations convention on the rights of the child was ratified by Nigeria and enacted into law in 2003. Lagos State government enacted the child’s Right Law in 2007 the law was recently amended in 2015.All other enactments relating to children have been consolidated into the Child’s Right Law.
WHO IS A CHILD?
A child is defined as a person under the age of eighteen pursuant to the provision of Section 261 of the Child’s Right Law.
It is important to state that while deliberating on the convention on the rights of the child the UN emphasised the need to make the best interest of the child as paramount at any given time. Hence Section 1 of the law states as follows;
‘As from the commencement of this Law, every action concerning a child undertaken by any individual, public or private body, institution, court of law, Administrative or legislative authority, the best interest of the child must be the primary consideration’
Accordingly all issues that concern children are done in the best interest of the child.
Adoption is defined in the blacks Law dictionary as ,
‘An act of one who takes another’s child into his own family, treating him as own and gives him all the rights and duties of his own child,it is a judicial act creating a relationship between two persons, purely civil’
Section 115 of the child’s Right Law states as follows‘(1) The State government must ,establish and maintain within the statae, a service designed to meet the needs of-
(a)children who have been or may be adopted
(b)parents or guardians of the children specified
(c)persons who have adopted or who may adopt a child and for this purpose the state government must provide the requisite facilities,or ensure that the facilities are provided by approved adoption services as may be prescribed by the appropriate authority.
(2)The facilities to be provided as part of the services maintained under subsection (1) of this section include-
(a)temporary board and lodging where needed by children and in exceptional circumstances ,their mothers,
(b)arrangement for assessing children and prospective adopters and placing of the children for adoption, and
(c)counselling for persons with problems relating to adoption’
It will be observed that the word must was used in section 115 ,the use of this word implies that it is mandatory for the State government to provide this service. Hence the Ministry of Youth and Social Development has the mandate to provide this service.
PROCESS AND PROCEDURE
The prospective adoptive parents’ shall forward a letter of intention to adopt to the Ministry of Youth and Social Development, addressed to the Permanent
Secretary or Honourable Commissioner.This is pursuant to the provision in Section 121(1)(b) of the Child’s Right Law .The law states further that this shall be done one year before the adoption order is granted.
It is advised that where a couple is applying the two of them should sign the letter with their telephone nos indicated on the letter. Also the couple shall explain why they want to adopt a child and give convincing reasons why their applications should be considered favourably.
The applicants shall be called by the ministry for further processing if their application is considered favourably. It is advised that the applicants follow up on the application by further visit to the ministry.A file shall be opened for the applicants and all necessary documents shall be submitted like
(i)the birth certificate of the couple,
(iii)evidence of means of livelihood,
(iv)medical report of the couple
(v) if they are foreigners or Nigerians resident abroad documents showing their residence status shall be supplied and
(vi)additional documents that will assist in processing the application.
A file will then be opened for the applicants where all the documents will be enclosed.
The application along with the documents shall be verified for further processing. If they scale through they shall be invited for the pre adoption counselling .At the session the applicants shall be briefed by the (a)medical personnel present on child care,(b)lawyer who shall talk about the effects of adoption and other legal issues on the rights of the parents and child (c),Social Welfare Officer on the basic needs of babies ,children and parents.
The homes of the applicants are visited and pictures are taken of the homes. The homes should be within Lagos.
After the counselling session the applicants shall be presented before the adoption panel which shall include a representative of the Police,Imiigration Services,Judiciary,Legal Officer MYSD,PS and HC.The panel shall ask questions on different issues to ascertain the suitability of the applicants. Look at the report written on each applicant, the pictures of their residence, means of livelihood, ask various questions such as questions on the possibility that the child shall be properly cared for without being over pampered, and also establish that the child shall be brought up in a safe and conducive environment.
After presentation before the adoption panel the applicants are issued with adoption approval if they are succeful.They shall then proceed for a period of bonding with the child. At the conclusion of bonding a report shall be written on the bonding period for consideration of the court. Thereafter the court is approached with the applicants and the child for the adoption order.
It is important to note that any adoption done without the adoption order is inchoate and it amounts to a crime that relates to child theft.Before a child is considered for
adoption the child’s matter is brought before the family court for an order releasing the child for adoption and discharge of care order.
WHO MAY BE ADOPTED – SECTION 118 CHILD’S RIGHT LAW
(1)A child who the parents give consent to his/her adoption.
(2)a child who is abandoned, neglected or persistently abused or ill treated, and there are compelling reasons in the interest of the child.
PERSONS WHO MAY ADOPT -SECTION 119 CHILD’S RIGHT LAW
(a)a married couple where-‘(i)each of them has attained the age of twenty five years,and
(ii)there is an order authorising them jointly to adopt
(b)a married person, if he or she has obtained consent of his or her spouse,as required under Section 124 of the Law
(c)a single person,if he or she attained the age of thirty five years or
(d)in all cases specified in subsections9a),(b)(c) the adopter or adopters must be persons found to be suitable to adopt the child in question by the appropriate investigating officer.
RESTRICTIONS IN MAKING ADOPTION ORDERS SECTION 121 CHILD’S RIGHT LAW
An adoption order must not be granted in respect of a child unless-
(a)the applicant or in the case of joint applicants, one of them, is fit and proper and not less than twenty five years old.
(b)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
(2)on the application of a married couple, if they consist of a parent and a step parent of the child, the court will dismiss the application if it considers that the matter would be better dealt with under possession and custody of children.
The effect of subsection 2 is that a step parent cannot adopt a child of the spouse at best a possession and custody order can be granted by the court
REQUIRED CONSENT -SECTION 122
Where a married person is the sole applicant for an adoption order,the court may refuse the order if the consent of the spouse is not obtained.
It is important to state also that where ther is any encumbrance on any child the court shall not give approval for the adoption of such child.
EFFECT OF ADOPTION
On an adoption order being granted all rights, obligations and liabilities under the personal law applicable to the parents of the child or any other person in relation to the future custody ,maintenance, supervision and education of the child, religious rights, right to appoint a guardian and to consent or give notice of dissent to marriage must be extinguished.
Also all rights, duties, obligations and liabilities in respect of the future custody and education of the child shall vest in the parents
The law also states that for the purpose of devolution of property on the intestacy of the adopter an adopted child must be treated as a child born to the adopter and the child or children of the adopters includes the adopted child.
(As a matter of fact the adoption order will state all these)
After the order is made the child’s adoption shall be registered in the adopted children’s register kept by the chief Registrar of the high court. The child adoption shall also be registered in the register of births.
Furthermore the Ministry also renders inter -state adoption subject to the licence os the Honourable Attorney General.
The child’s progress shall also be monitored until age 18,
That is an overview of adoption process in Lagos State.