Biologically, a child is a human being between the stages of birth and puberty, or between the developmental period of infancy and puberty. The legal definition of a child generally refers to a minor, otherwise known as a person younger than the age of majority. Children are usually believed to be gifts from God. In the African society, the absence or inability of a woman to procreate often generates several issues, some of which are enough to break homes and cause sourness in a marriage. Thus, a once anticipated and celebrated marriage could become a source of sorrow.
It is, therefore, in view of the joy that the birth of a child brings to parents and family members that it is difficult for the human mind to really comprehend why a woman who has gone through the agony of childbirth would want to dump same child in horrible places such as pits, refuse dumps and other such miserable places where the child’s life is extremely endangered. Many probable reasons have been proffered by experts as being responsible for prevalence of abandoned babies in our society. Foremost among this is poverty. Most mothers who abandon their children at birth, usually do so for fear of the magnitude of financial requirement needed in taking care of the children.
Aside this, it has been discovered that most of the mothers, who are mostly still teenagers, lack the psychological and emotional fortitude required to really cater for a child. Hence, they would rather do away with the child and move on with life. However, there is, indeed, no humanly justified reason for anyone to dump a child in such a disgusting and heartless manner as it is often done. Anyone who isn’t prepared to provide for a child shouldn’t be involved in procreation acts. It is as simple as that! Eventually, many of the abandoned children along with orphans and abused children end up in orphanage homes. Some of them, who are fortunate enough, are adopted and re-integrated into the society while others may not be that lucky because of various reasons, such as traditions, cultural norms and values, economic forces, stigma or discrimination, among other biases.
Surprisingly, child adoption is now becoming a growing culture in the country. Prior to now, adoption wasn’t really a well-embraced tradition in the country. But now, the trend seems to be changing as more Nigerians tilt towards the practice. It has been revealed by many indigenous orphanages, especially in Lagos, that things have changed from when they used to appeal through the media for Nigerians to come forward to adopt children, to having a waiting list of couples interested in adopting babies. According to a high ranking source from the Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Welfare, the Ministry now receives over bloated number of applications on a weekly basis without a corresponding availability of adoptable children.
In spite of this, however, there is still a lot to be done to boost understanding about adoption and all it entails so that more Nigerians could get involved in the process. This is primarily to promote the culture and make it more acceptable. Research has revealed that children raised in traditional two-parent families experience a lower risk of delinquency than children from alternative family types (Free, 1991; Rankin, 1983).
Another study on Juvenile delinquency has shown that family structure is an important factor in explaining delinquency among adolescents (Price and Kunz, 2003). A former Commissioner for Youth and Social Development in Lagos State, Mrs. Uzamat Akinbile-Yusuf, has also advocated the discouragement of institutionalization of children in orphanages. It is her conviction that children who grow under family setting have better advantages than those who were left to bond with other children in orphanages where they would be under strict monitoring.
Adoption is governed in Nigeria by two laws: The Child Right Act 2003 and the Adoption Law of the State where one seeks to adopt. Cohabiting and same-sex couples are not permitted by law to adopt children. Juvenile refers to a person who has attained the age of 14 but is under 17 years, that is a young person who is not an adult, while the Nigerian Constitution of 1979 defines Juvenile Delinquency as a crime committed by a young person under the age of 18 as a result of trying to comply with the wishes of his peers or to escape from parental pressure or certain emotional stimulation.
Adoption would, therefore, assist in reducing juvenile crimes in our society, by putting the children in deserving and loving families where the children are re-integrated to contribute positively to the society, as against leaving them in orphanages where after some years they are left to themselves. In the long run we discover that in showing love to these young ones, we are in reality loving ourselves enough to rid the society of potential criminals and nurture potential solution providers to the world problems we have been trying hard to solve.
Take for example in Lagos State, adoption process is not cumbersome as it is widely believed, but it is a project and applicants have to be thoroughly assessed and scrutinized. This is aimed at ensuring that only those that are suitable and capable are given the opportunity to adopt because of its legality. Stages of adoption in Lagos State include submission of application letter, attending pre-counseling session, invitation for interview, filling of form, home assessment, adoption panel, post-counseling, issuance of approval letter, making a choice of child in orphanage (introduction), identification of a child at the orphanages, authority to release for bonding, bonding period and legalization. It has been revealed that adopters usually fail to complete the adoption process to the legalization stage, which is the final phase.
There is also a tendency for adopters to get carried away after the bonding period has expired. Counselors often educate the adopters about the consequences of failing to complete the process. Also, most times adopters are particular about physical features of the child they want and health status thereby prolonging the process. Likewise, applicants complain about the waiting period of 12 months as stipulated in section 121 of the Child Right Law.
No matter how prolonged or complex the process of child adoption might be, it is nothing compared to the joy and fulfillment of giving a child hope and a head start in life. So, adopters should patiently pursue the process to its logical conclusion since it is a worthy cause.
For kids who have been adopted by families, the new adoption law has positively influenced their lives. It has helped and made them know what it feels to be loved and properly taken care of. It helps them develop better academically, psychologically, physically, spiritually, socially, emotionally, and otherwise.
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