By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
An illegal adoption takes place when the adoption of a child is done in violation of stipulated laws regulating adoptions. These constitute abuses such as abduction of children, the sale of children, traffic in children, and other illegal or illicit activities against children. Put the other way, an adoption fraud, an alternative term for illegal adoption, takes place when a person or institute attempts to either illegally adopt a child or illegally give up a child for adoption.
Before now, adoptions were basically viewed from the perspective of the childless married couples attempts to normalise their relationships, but the current trend has stretched beyond this. In the present times the mindset has accommodated adoption to mean an institution that helps children from a less improved environment to an improved environment .In Nigeria however, the old mentality still prevails. While one has no problems with the reasons, especially if they are genuine, what bothers the well-meaning public now is the rate at which illegal adoptions are proliferating.
Since adoption involves the creation of the parent-child relationship between individuals who are not naturally so related, and the child is given the rights, privileges, and duties of a child and heir by the adoptive family, equally,the best interests of the child are of paramount importance in policy considerations toward adoption.
The violations of these interests which serve as the pivot of adoptions have generated immense concerns from experts and institutions alike in their frantic efforts to proffer solutions to put this menace at bay.
The report of the special rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography during 34th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2017 maintained that illegal adoptions violate multiple child rights norms and principles, including the best interests of the child, the principle of subsidiarity and the prohibition of improper financial gain. These principles are breached when the purpose of an adoption is to find a child for adoptive parents rather than a family for the child.
The report also added that “adoptions resulting from crimes such as abduction and sale of and trafficking in children, fraud in the declaration of adoptability, falsification of official documents or coercion, and any illicit activity or practice such as lack of proper consent by biological parents, improper financial gain by intermediaries and related corruption, constitute illegal adoptions and must be prohibited, criminalized and sanctioned as such”.
The report listed some key recommendations as follow:adoption of legislation that prohibits and criminalizes illegal adoption as a separate offence, as well as the sale of and trafficking in children that result in illegal adoptions, with sanctions that reflect the gravity of the crimes;
Review of national laws to ensure that they do not contribute to the creation or maintenance of an enabling environment for illegal adoptions;
Strengthening and investing more in effective national child protection systems by increasing support to vulnerable families and providing alternative childcare measures in which adoptions respect the principle of subsidiarity and ensure the best interests of the child;
Establishing and implementing a single process for adoption that includes a holistic assessment of the child’s full range of rights, and prohibit private and independent adoptions;
Adopting adequate regulation on procedures and safeguards in relation to domestic and intercountry adoptions, including in relation to the determination of adoptability, and establish effective mechanisms for overseeing adoption processes, especially with respect to verifying the background of any child who is declared an orphan;
Establishing mechanisms for addressing the concerns of adoptees, adoptive parents and biological parents about the circumstances of an adoption and for facilitating the search for origins and the request for reparations where appropriate;
Ensuring the right to truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence of victims of large-scale illegal adoptions by reforming institutions that were either involved in or incapable of preventing abuses, and guarantee the effective and meaningful participation of victims in the design and implementation of measures to obtain comprehensive redress;
Taking effective measures to protect children who are victims of armed conflict and natural disasters from becoming victims of illegal adoption, among other recommendations.