Children’s Rights Group Urge Stricter Measures for Cross-Border Adoptions in Africa

Mar 05 2014

While international adoptions have decreased for the past years, international adoptions of children from Africa are on the rise. This can be caused in part by the fact that countries such as China and Russia are tightening up (or even halting) adoptions by other countries, particularly the United States. In turn, the numbers indicate that families wanting to adopt internationally are turning to the African continent. Statistics shows that while adoptions from Africa only figured at 5% last 2003, adoptions have since quadrupled and have contributed to over 20% of all international adoptions by the year 2010.

The adoptions involving famous celebrities such as Madonna and Angelina Jolie has placed the spotlight on African adoptions. Such attention has brought some of the aspects of international adoption under fire from children’s rights advocated. These advocates, among them the African Child Policy Forum, are campaigning for stricter measures to prevent “loopholes in the laws and guidelines”. With these cracks in the system, there are some cross-border adoptions that happen without due process, bringing more children at risk to human trafficking.

Because of the amounts of money involved in adoptions, some children are placed into the “adoption market” under false pretenses – mainly, that they are orphans even when they have at least one living parent or living relatives. However, there are cases where children are recruited or even kidnapped or bought, and sent to orphanages. In some of these cases, the parents of the adopted children never legally terminated their parental rights to the child or were defrauded into doing so.

International Adoptions Only When There is no other Domestic Alternative

Child welfare advocates are clamoring for African governments to invest more into child welfare and protection systems. This includes exploring the viability of other alternatives such as foster-care systems or domestic adoptions before considering the possibility of inter-country adoption.

Based on The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, all efforts must be made to check that the child to be adopted does not have a family to care for them. The goal is to protect the interests of the child by not depriving him of his roots and his family ties.

Child welfare groups are also pushing for more African countries to be party to The Hague Adoption Convention on intercountry adoption. Known more formally as The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, this is a convention between countries that sets out international standards for the adoption process.

The Hague Convention requires convention countries (countries party to the convention) to have an office or authoritative source for information and contact regarding adoptions. It only allows adoption when all other alternatives are not viable. That is, adoptions can only push through if no suitable family is available in the child’s country of origin and the child is proclaimed eligible for adoption by the country of origin. The convention also requires adoption agencies to be accredited before it can operate on a convention country.

As of now, only a few countries in Africa have joined the convention. This includes Burkina Faso, Burindi, Cape Verde, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritius, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland and Togo.

Making Countries More Child Friendly

The concentrated efforts towards stricter domestic guidelines, coupled with more African countries becoming party to The Hague Convention, is seen to make Africa more “child friendly”. Other steps to be undertaken include improvement of the child’s basic needs such as shelter, health and education.