“You can define how strong a democracy is by how its government treats its child. I don’t mean children. I mean the child of the state.” – Lemn Sissay (Adoptee; fostered)
As we wrap up the Series today, I would like to speak to some points briefly.
Having studied adoption in many climes, it remains to be said that absolutely nothing can be done for the child of the state, without the government.
One major complaint that almost everyone has had with the adoption process has been the time it takes from the expression of interest to the actual adoption. The anticipation of waiting. It’s not a Nigerian problem, it’s a universal one. From Australia, to the United Kingdom, it takes time to adopt, period. Like we noted earlier in the Series, each state legislates over adoption. Adoption is very different in each jurisdiction and it can be very messy and overwhelming for some people. In Nigeria, the government generally permits only children who have been abandoned and with no identifiable family members to take them in, to be adopted. In most developed countries, adoption is permitted even when family members may still be living, but only when they are no longer in a position to take care of them. But the truth is the same everywhere. The waiting list for younger children, most especially babies is longer than those for toddlers or young children. Like last season’s fashion, the longer they have been in the homes, the less likely they are to be adopted.
The government has always sought to protect the interest of children. Through the years, we have seen such tools as Family Planning, the fight against child abuse and trafficking and even the re-introduction of free education that have helped improve the lot of children. For the child of the state, however, a lot has been left undone. The passage of the Child Rights Act, 2003 has largely helped in this direction but how much? Abandoned children are still at the mercy of evil people who use them to throw pity parties and get grants form unsuspecting organizations. These children are being sold to willing couples; people who have tired of the long drawn out adoption process and will do anything to get a child. They are also trafficked for various heart breaking activities.
The private sector is taking a public interest in adoption. This past year alone has seen such events and people like Mrs. Eme Akenzua of Heritage Adoption Support And Advocacy Group (HASAAG), Mrs. Joke Silva, Pastor Ituah and Ibidunni Ighodalo of the Parents-In-Waiting Foundation, and Robomi Ayo-Yusuf of LAEL Foundation, join their voices to this cause. The wheels have begun to turn and there is no going back. Government has to realize that the adoption triad involves people whose lives it regulates and that it would be much more profitable all round to work with the private sector in helping the child of the state. As has often being reiterated throughout this Series, children belong in homes not institutions. This is the agenda we all pursue in our respective ways.
As a step in this direction, adoption agencies need to be licensed by each state. It would greatly alleviate the myriad of problems facing the state in adoption. Mrs. Laide Latinwo, Director Social Welfare and Mr. Oluwatoyin Kotun, Head of Adoption both of the Ministry of Youths and Social Development Lagos State, have been helpful in serving as facilitators at seminars and conferences that I have personally attended, providing much needed enlightenment and expertise in this area.
Lagos State has often being the pacesetter in every regard because of its cosmopolitan nature. A step in this direction would encourage other states to emulate this practice. And rather than build the universal rhetoric of adoption taking time, we can be the country to emulate in ensuring that adoption and fostering are done with utmost care and efficiency, but more importantly, timeously. There will however, always be caution, because just like Helena Blavatsky warned, “Must we cease to be lovers of wisdom because we must act?”
Few of us know what it’s like to be adopted or fostered. But the movie industry seems to like this “quirk” for the super hero, larger than life images it creates with its characters in mind: stolen childhoods. Think James Bond, Jason Bourne, and the “Baron” in Jeffery Archer’s novel, Kane and Abel. Listening to Lemn Sissay TedTalk on adoption brings this point home. Oliver Twist, Batman, Cinderella, Spider Man, Superman, Harry Potter and so on. These characters were adopted, fostered or orphaned. It may be that the struggles of these characters experience in life are themes we invariably find in our lives. But it’s not the smooth or a “happily-ever-afterish” transition that appears on film.
Even in countries such as the United States where adoption has been legally recognized and embraced since the 1800’s, the adopted child still battles stigmatization on a daily, daily. People will continue to be insensitive and children will often be mean, especially in Africa where our identity is rather clannish and we are obsessed with the concept of “my own”. It’s not something that is going away any time soon. But what we can do is to continue the conversation and speak to it. We can create an environment where adoptees are not ashamed to come out and identify as such, it is a utopia that is difficult to reach because just like the poor, the stupid will always be among us. But it’s also one that we should not shy away from attaining.
It’s been a great journey to this point and I appreciate everyone who made it possible, especially “our hosts”, BellaNaija. Aderonke, you were a treasure as always. Thank you for listening to my inputs. To those who took the time to send mails and post comments, I can’t thank you enough. Most importantly, that I have helped you.
The conversation doesn’t end here. It is only the beginning.
“We may not be able to solve the bigotry and the racism of this world today, but certainly, we can raise children to create a positive, inclusive connected world full of empathy, love and compassion.” –Christopher Ategeka (Adoptee)
Photo Credit: © Olena Yakobchuk | Dreamstime.com