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‘Guidelines for adopting not stringent, but demanding’

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Lagos State Commissioner for Youth and Social Development, Segun Dawodu

Segun Dawodu is the Lagos State Commissioner for Youth and Social Development. In this interview with KEHINDE OLATUNJI, he spoke on orphanages and correctional facilities in the state and guidelines on child adoption.

Is the Ministry still funding orphanages?
NO, it does not fund privately owned orphanages. However, it is responsible for the funding of government-owned homes, in addition to children correctional centres for boys and girls. There are three major categories of children that can be found in these homes and correctional centres, and they include children in need of care and supervision, those that are beyond parental control and child offenders.

Does the ministry have a say in their running?
We do this through registration, regulation, and supervision. For prospective orphanage operators to be registered in the state, he or she must have complied with the requirement for registration. This is to ensure best practice. Furthermore, there are conditions contained in the Provisional Approval of six months, the compliance of which will lead to the granting of final approval. Besides, the final approval also contains conditions, which must be complied with; failure to do so will lead to sanctions.

How does the ministry now monitor orphanages’ activities to ensure such money is well spent?
For the purpose of emphasis, the ministry does not fund activities of privately owned orphanages. However, in terms of monitoring their activities, there are well-defined mechanisms for such. There are specific units within the ministry that are saddled with monitoring responsibility. They include: The Research & Development Unit, which registers, regulates and carries out oversight functions over the orphanages; the Child Protection Unit is responsible for placement of children, safeguarding and protection of children while in the orphanages, removal of such children in the event of abuse, undertakes social investigations in order to either reunite the children with their families or recommend them for appropriate dispositions, which may include adoption, fostering and guardianship; the Family Social Services carry out monthly supervision of the orphanages. The unit also carries out a social investigation concerning the children in order to recommend them for appropriate dispositions, which may include a reunion with families, adoption, fostering and guardianship.

What are the guidelines on child adoption?
The guideline for child adoption is contained in section 115-135 of the Child’s Right Law of Lagos State 2015 (as amended). In addition, every prospective adopter is expected to comply with the following: submission of application letter by the prospective adopters to the permanent secretary (MYSD); attending pre-counseling sessions (educating and enlightening of prospective adopters), an invitation for an interview, filling of registration forms and documentation.

The requirement includes birth certificate/attestation of birth; marriage certificate; medical certificate of fitness; proof of employment; recent payslip (six months); original statement of account (six months); four coloured passport photographs each and tax clearance for the last three years.

Any other requirements?
Home Assessment (to ascertain suitability of the home for child’s upbringing and development); Payment of administrative charge (N80,000) subject to review; Adoption panel – where the stakeholders review the application and grant approval; Post Counselling session; issuance of approval letter; identifying a child of their choice at any of the registered orphanage; release of child to prospective adopter for bonding; bonding period with child (one to three months) subject Family Court decision; and legalisation of adoption at the Family Court (process where court declares the prospective adopters the legal parent of child).

Are there sanctions for erring orphanages?
Yes, there are. Such sanctions may include revocation of approval to operate in the state; non-placement of children into such orphanage(s); removal of children from erring orphanages to another orphanage and prosecution of erring orphanage operators.

What is the government doing to increase the number of existing orphanages?
The government does this through the prompt treatment of new applications for registration, minimal administrative charges for registration and provision of technical support, such as enrolment of children into government schools and enrolment of such children into the Lagos State Health Insurance scheme. Additionally, securing waivers for medical treatment through the Medical Social Services Unit across the various general hospitals and health centres.

Does the ministry oversee private orphanages activities?
It oversees the activities of the orphanage through the following measures: Through monthly supervision, unscheduled visits, monthly submission of statistical reports, regular quarterly meetings and or any other meeting as the case may be.

What is the ministry doing to curb all the abuses and improper things going on at some orphanages?
We do these through supervisory visits, capacity building for staff and the management of orphanages through age, appropriate means, and enactment of the Lagos State Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy (2016), revocation of approval, closure of orphanages, prosecution of erring orphanage owners/operators and removal of children to another orphanage.

What developmental plans are in place for orphanages to ensure they function effectively?
Regular quarterly meeting of the ministry and the operators of orphanages to review statistical reports emanating from the orphanages and discouragement of institutionalisation of children through the provision of technical support. This is aimed at ensuring prompt disposal of the children matters at the various Family Courts.


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