Francisca Serwaa Boateng, Esq.
FSB Law Consult, Ghana
The family is the basic unit of every society, and children form an important part of the family. Most people may have their own biological children, but it is also common to see people nurture and develop other children as their own through the process of adoption. Couples or individuals have different reasons for adopting children who may or may not be related to them, such as an inability to have their own children or a desire to help a specific child, for example. Adoption is simply the process by which a person may by law become the child of another person or persons who may not be their biological parent. The person adopting a child may be a complete stranger or a relative of that child. Under the laws of Ghana, only a child under the age of 18 years may be adopted. The adopted child has all the social, cultural, emotional, and legal benefits of biological children. People decide to adopt children for various reasons. These may include the following: i. To increase the number of one’s own children; ii. To give an orphaned child a parent/parents; iii. To help individuals and/or couples who would otherwise be unable to have children biologically; iv. To assist individuals to integrate and take care of their young relatives as part of their immediate family; and v. For altruistic purposes. Adoption could be done according to the customary law of the persons adopting the child or under the Children’s Act, 1998 (Act 560) and the Adoption Rules, 2003 (C.I 42). Adoption under customary law is done at the family or community level according to the customs and traditions of the applicants. The courts are not involved in that process. However, adoption under the Children’s Act is a formal legal process that is handled by courts. Individuals who want to adopt a child must hire a lawyer to prepare and file the necessary documents in court for an Adoption Order in respect of the child. The lawyer may file the application at the High Court, Circuit Court, or District Court (Family Tribunal, which is a simpler process) depending on the nature of the application and the parties. For applications before the High Court and Circuit Court, the lawyer will buy a set of Originating Summons Form from the High Court for processing and filing. The set must also include the following for filing: - Statement in Support of Application for an Adoption Order; - Medical Certificate as to the Health of the Applicants; - Medical Report as to the Health of the Child; - An Affidavit of Support of the Application for Adoption Order attested before a Commissioner for Oaths or Notary Public;
- Power of Attorney which enables the lawyer to represent the person adopting the child in Court if they would not be present in Ghana at the time of going to Court; and
- Marriage Certificate if the applicants are a married couple as evidence of marital union between applicants.
In all adoption cases, the Department of Social Welfare is an interested party. Therefore, the Department conducts investigations into the background and lifestyle of the applicants to ascertain if they are financially fit and morally capable of adopting the child. If the applicants are out of the country, their lawyer will assist the assigned Social Welfare Officer with information to prepare of the report on the investigations. The findings of the Social Welfare Department, called a Social Enquiry Report, is submitted before the Court to assist the Court in making its order for the adoption.
The adoption process is guided by a strict regime of confidentiality. On the day of the adoption hearing, the proceedings are held in the Judge’s Chambers rather than in open court. Further, only the applicants, their lawyer, a Social Welfare Officer, and the Court clerk are allowed to be present. The law even allows applicants to hide their identity if they so wish.
The process of adopting a child through the legal process is a simple one. Any person who has the desire to adopt a child should seek proper legal advice from a qualified lawyer to make their journey to parenthood a straightforward, cost-effective, and enjoyable experience.