Jan 18 2022. views 200
A child is considered a blessing, but due to unforeseen circumstances, having a child could remain a dream for some who aspire to be parents. The concept of adoption has been defined by various social and cultural interpretations. For some, an adoption has various ifs and buts, but what really matters is if a would-be parent is willing to give a well-deserved life to a child who would otherwise remain at a care home. In Sri Lanka, although there is a demand for adoptions, this is always considered a last resort. But from a global point of view, many foreign individuals have shown an interest in adopting children from Sri Lanka. However, prior to an adoption, be it within the country or foreign, the applicants have certain criteria to fulfill.
Procedure for adoptions
“Adoptions that happen within the country are managed by the Provincial Probation departments,” opined Sudheera Nilanga Withana, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Childcare and Probation Services. “There’s a long waiting list for adoptions and parents should first register themselves. We don’t have a lot of children to be given away for adoptions. Therefore, we give a child for adoption after checking if parents are able to fulfill certain criteria.”
The criteria include age, income status of parents, their health, the inability to give birth to a child, status of employment, declaration of assets and once they are interviewed by the relevant probation department official a court case is filed. “Even in the case of private adoptions the child is given away only following a court case because his or her birth certificate and other documents have to be prepared,” he added.
Once a child is sent to his or her new home, probationary offices follow up on whether the child is in a safe and child-friendly environment. “This follow up is continued until the child reaches 18 years of age. Sometimes, parents resend children to care homes if they’re unable to look after them. However there’s a demand for adopting children in Sri Lanka. But we don’t have a lot of children to fulfill this demand.”
Responding to a query on foreign adoptions, Withana said that once a child is sent to a foreign home, designated institutions will followup on the child’s living environment and progress. “They will send a quarterly report of the child with photos, medical reports and other details. There aren’t many such adoptions happening in the Sri Lankan context. During the past year only around two children were sent for foreign adoptions.”
He further said that a committee has been appointed by the Ministry of Justice to look into bringing about certain reforms in the Children and Young Persons Ordinance. “The Department of Probation and several other line ministries and stakeholders are involved in this process,” he added.
What the law states …
As mentioned before, Sri Lankan children are sent for foreign adoptions but much more needs to be done in terms of monitoring. Apart from that the safety of children in care homes is of paramount importance but child rights activists have continuously raised their voice against the fact that budgetary allocations and funding for child care services is minimal. Therefore, it is a challenge to work within financial limitations while ensuring the welfare of children. Here, attorney-at-law and founder of Child Protection Force Milani Salpitikorala explains the matters at hand in detail.
q Many foreigners are interested in adopting Sri Lankan children. Does the law allow such adoptions? And what are the pros and cons of this matter?
Yes the law does allow foreign adoptions and there are quite a number of successful foreign adoptions. This is regulated through the Adoption Ordinance of Sri Lanka and the Amendments to the Ordinance in 1992. There is a thorough process to be followed in order for a foreign resident to apply for an adoption in Sri Lanka and is also handled by the National Commissioner of Probation and Child Care Services of Sri Lanka. It is important to note that the existing system gives priority to local adoptions.
It is important to keep in mind that Sri Lanka is bound by the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoptions. The Convention seeks to protect children and their families against the risks of illegal, irregular, premature or ill-prepared adoptions abroad.
The advantage of a foreign adoption would obviously be the standard of life and education for the child. It is a standard understanding within Child Protection Actors that the process of adoption is more for the benefit of a child who is need of a family, rather than for parents who are in need of a child. I have personally come across many children who have been adopted by foreign families. It is rewarding to see these children and their quality of life in terms of living and education.
However, the monitoring mechanisms, post adoption must be followed and be consistent. The major disadvantage would be the risk of safety to the child who will be taken out of the country. These risks may come in different ways; exploitation for work, sex, organ etc. This is why the follow up monitoring needs to be regulated and consistent. Sec. 10C of the Adoption Ordinance mentions the follow up process through reports submitted to the Commissioner as “…quarter-yearly, in respect of the child until the adoption of such child is legally confirmed in that country; … half-yearly, in respect of such child along with the child’s photographs for the first three years from the date on which the adoption is legally confirmed in that country;… yearly, in respect of such child until such child reaches the age of ten years…”
The existing law states that such reports should be submitted until the child is 10 years old. However, it is in my opinion and recommendation that this should change to 18 years until the child reaches the age of adulthood.
q Is there a monitoring mechanism to ensure that the child lives in a safe and secure environment after his/her new parents take them away?
The current monitoring mechanism is laid down in Sec. 10C of the Adoption Ordinance.
q What is the status of Sri Lanka’s institutions? Do you feel that they need more improvement?
If you mean government managed/ run Child Care Institutions, I am unable to discuss the status of the same. However, yes I do feel they may be in need of improvements in terms of staff trained in Child Protection or at least training programmes for the existing staff of the Child Care Institutions. It is also important for the public to note that the allocation of funds for Child Care is minimal compared to the rest of the activities. This roots down to the major challenge of under-resourced, ill-motivated Child Care Actors. In such a sense, one cannot expect them to be on their most efficient work standards. This is why such grassroot level officers such as, the Probation Officers, the Police Women and Children’s Bureau Officers, the Officers at the District Secretariat on Women and Children, need to have more resources both with material resources like vehicles, printers, computers, phones, phone allowances, stationery, more pay etc. but also with training resources on mental health awareness, self-empowerment, sensitization of child related matters, laws relating to children, international standards of Child Protection and so on.
If we as a State want to improve our Child Protection Systems one of the key missions we could do is to empower our grassroot level State Actors.
With regard to Safe Houses for women with children, there are only a few State run homes and few run by Civil Society Organization. With the spike in the rate of Domestic Violence in the past 2 years, society is in great need of more Safe Houses for Women and Children who suffer trauma through Domestic Violence.
q Can a single mother adopt a child?
Section 2(1) of the Adoption Ordinance states that “Any person desirous of being authorized to adopt a child…” therefore including single parents who want to adopt as long as the restriction and requirements mentioned in the act are adhered to.
q Isn’t it necessary to provide mental health services in this process?
Sri Lanka must now start running side by side with the rest of the world instead of being 100 steps behind. Many other jurisdictions, including Singapore, have a pre and post adoption psychological service for both the child who is being adopted and the new adoptive parents. We hardly recognize the need for mental health assistance for anything, let alone for the process of adoption. These are good practices that we as a State striving to protect our children should adopt from foreign jurisdictions.
As per the Adoption of Children Ordinance, an adoption order shall not be made if …
The applicant is under 25 years of age
The application is less than 21 years older than the child in respect of whom the application is made
The sole applicant is a male and the child in respect of whom the application is made is a female unless the court is satisfied that there are special circumstances to justify the making of such an adoption order
The child is over 10 years except with the consent of such a child
A parent or guardian of the child or someone who has the actual custody of the child or who is liable to contribute to the support of the child doesn’t give his or her consent