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It’s unfair to relegate orphanages in child adoption, fostering — George

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George

• No Citizen Should Patronise Fake Or Unregistered Orphanages

The National President, Association of Orphanages And Homes Operators In Nigeria (ASOHON), Reverend Mrs. Dele George told GERALDINE AKUTU, that the association wants to be participants or at least observers in adoption panels in view of its role in the survival and development of adoptable children.

Many don’t seem to understand how child adoption works. What are the processes involved and what roles do governments play?
In Lagos State, for instance, the Ministry of Youth and Social Development is fully in charge of the process of adoption. It does all the necessary investigations and interviews. In Abia State, it is the Ministry of Strategy and Social Development. In states like Oyo and Ogun, it is the Ministry of Women Affairs, while in others like Enugu State; it is the Ministry of Gender Affairs that is in charge. 

Having said that, what I can add there is that adoption is a government affair and the processes differ from state-to-state.

Without proper monitoring, children could be sold into slavery or sentenced to death in the name of adoption. Isn’t it?
Like the adoption process, the monitoring of adopted children is done by the arm of government in charge of adoption. Even though the government does not consider orphanage operators relevant in the process and monitoring of adoptions, we still feel responsible and accountable for adopted children. So, we try to monitor from a distance and report observations to the ministry, especially in cases of abuse or bereavement.

We have been clamoring for a while to be included as participants, or at least as observers in adoption panels. We play the biggest role in the survival and development of these adoptable children. So, it seems so unfair that we are relegated to the background when it comes to adoption or fostering. Some states do not even allow the founders to meet with the adopters. Children are released to ministry social workers on behalf of approved adopters. In such cases, it’s impossible to help with any sort of monitoring.

How do you determine a couple that is genuinely deserving of adopting a child?
In Little Saints Orphanage and in all other homes in our Association of Orphanages and Homes Operators in Nigeria (ASOHON), we all look for genuine love, a stable family, and a standard environment for physical and mental development. Like I said earlier, we are not involved in the process of adoption, but we release children to adopters that have approval letters based on the availability of children.

Is it advisable for a single parent to adopt?
Yes, even single parents have the right to seek adoption. Even single men can adopt. Single men can only adopt boys and single women can only adopt girls. Everyone who desires a child should be able to have one. It’s a human right.

Is it true that homes are reluctant to release children to couples who want them?
All registered orphanages support and practice adoption. We do not support long-term institutionalisation of vulnerable children. Orphanages are meant to be a temporary abode for them. We fully cooperate with the government in reintegrating children into society through adoption, fostering and even guardianship. 

However, we cannot make the decision as to what child should be put up for adoption, that decision is made by the family courts. Since the wheel of justice grinds slowly, it takes a while for a magistrate to discharge a care order, and so there are plausible explanations for the delays and orphanages have no say in the matter. All we do is render information and fully comply with the court orders.

Some orphanages are accused of trading children to the highest bidder, who may not necessarily be capable of taking care of adoptees. Why should this happen?
The ones who commit such atrocities are fake and unregistered because both the buyer and the seller of babies are criminals in the eyes of the law. 

One of the objectives of our association is to join forces with law enforcement agencies across the country to eradicate child trafficking and shut down baby factories. Just because some orphanages are found to be illegal does not mean all orphanages are involved in illegal activities.

Little Saints Orphanage and other genuine orphanages do not charge a kobo for adoption. Only the government charges administrative or incidental fees for adoption.

In Lagos State, for instance, we do not get a kobo of the fees from the government. Adopters are encouraged but not compelled by some state governments to support the orphanage after the adoption has been done. Some adopters from a heart of gratitude do, but the majority don’t. The main benefit we get from adoption is the joy of seeing the children in loving families. We are content and happy when they go to a real home.

Some people think vulnerable children are beggars who have no choice so they should accept any condition, but all children deserve the best. 

In ASOHON, we strive to raise the standard of orphanages across the country, and registration of homes differs from state to state. The ministries of Women Affairs, Youth and Social Development or Gender Affairs are usually in charge of registration, supervision, and approval.

ASOHON is not usurping the responsibilities of any government agency, but we are collaborating with them to promote and enforce the rights of all vulnerable children. We are together to uphold and support each other.

What is the association doing to fish out fake orphanage homes, nip child trafficking, child labour and child abuse in the bud?
ASOHON is doing a lot. In the past 10 years, the face of social services in the country has become more recognisable and appreciable, and people are getting more and more conscious of their social responsibilities.

We are making efforts to ensure that only accredited homes are recognised and provided technical assistance by the government. Like I said earlier, we identify fake homes and report the same to relevant state and security agencies to ensure that they are properly investigated and due process followed in addressing their issues.

We ensure that the movement of children across homes and orphanages are well documented to ensure prompt identification of trafficked children. We also provide temporary support to rescued children by state governments where workable, until the investigation is completed for trafficked, abused and child labour survivors.

How does ASOHON assist the government to ensure that child right is not violated? 
We follow the Child Rights Act (CRA), as well as state domesticated Child Right Laws (CRL), where applicable, to ensure that members do not infringe upon rights of children. 

Our association has an established code of conduct for members to follow, and that guides relationships between children, home operators, and visitors alike. This is supported by a child protection policy, where there is an existence of the Child Rights Law. We Use IEC materials to promote the rights of the child, and also conduct routine spot checks on homes for compliance.

Are you able to deal with issues of baby factories?
We work with relevant state governments where such exits to ensure that alternative care for pregnant girls is not converted to baby factories. We report to relevant authorities, identified suspected baby factories, and we have in place, training for members on identification and prevention of the existence of such entities across states.

To a large extent, ASOHON has ensured best practice service delivery, which emanates from the guidelines provided by federal and state governments. 

We ensure that challenging issues are identified and relevant capacity building conducted to address them. We also ensure strategic coordination of homes and orphanages’ activities through regular monthly meetings.

Regular visits to member homes are made by zonal coordinators to ascertain levels of compliance with best practices. These zonal coordinators identify gaps and ensure relevant solutions are followed and members are supported to implement them. ASOHON is making a huge difference in the fourth sector of the nation’s economy, but we need the cooperation of federal and state governments, as well as all security agencies to achieve all our noble objectives.


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