The Jamaica government says it is seeking to update legislation that would make the adoption of children less tedious and conform to international standards.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information Floyd Green, says the Children (Adoption of) Act, which was passed in 1958, is outdated.
“A number of things have changed in relation to the rights of the child… and as such, one of the things we had to look at is to ensure that the adoption accords with the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the Child Care and Protection Act,” he told the Jamaica Information Service (JIS).
“So the technical team has done that and has suggested some changes. We also have to look at … how we can ensure that our adoption process is facilitatory, while still protecting our children,” he added.
The legislation is currently before the Attorney General’s Department and among the issues being looked at are the right of a parent to place a child up for adoption, and the circumstances that would be considered; what constitutes relinquishing the right to parent; and what qualifies a country to be on the schedule of nations whose citizens are allowed to adopt Jamaican children.
“So, a lot of what we had to look at is behind the scenes technical work in terms of our bureaucratic processes, but also look at the legislation to help fast-track matters in relation to things like parental rights, and what happens when a child is left at the hospital; things of that nature,” Green said.
“(We also) need to look at having sufficient protection in terms of checks for persons who are [interested in adopting]. So, it has been a more holistic look at adoption in the first instance and making sure it accords with our initiatives and the Child Care and Protection Act, while ensuring that we place children into families that are fit and proper.”
Green said that the Andrew Holness government is committed to making the adoption process easier and more efficient in order to permanently place children with families.
Studies all across the globe show that children perform better in a family setting, as a nurturing environment is provided for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual and emotional growth and development.
Up to March of this year, a total of 217 children were permanently placed with families — 171 locally and 46 overseas. This is a 26 per cent increase over the previous period.
The government has already put measures in place to shorten the adoption process by eliminating the two-tiered application system.
Previously, interested parties had to complete a pre-adoption form, which would see applicants being screened before the actual application process could begin.
But green said this two-tiered system was problematic and time-consuming and has been abolished.
“This has allowed us to shorten the process,” Green said.
Children between the ages of six weeks and 18 years old are eligible for adoption. Under Jamaican law, any person 25 years and older can adopt a child. However, persons who are 18 years old can adopt younger relatives.
The Adoption Board is responsible for approving adoptions, while the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) serves as the processing entity.
CPFSA Adoption Coordinator, Maxine Bagalue, said that there is no upper age limit to adopt in Jamaica.
“We know that persons are living longer, and depending on their health and support system that they have in place, that decision will be left to… the board when all the information is presented,” she said.
In Jamaica adoption can be completed over several months.
Persons wishing to adopt must be employed or at least be able to show how they are going to support themselves and the child. They will be required to provide certain documents, including birth certificate, marriage certificate, character references and letters of responsibility (which transfer guardianship of an adopted child to another adult/adults in the event of death).
If the documents are satisfactory, a four-week Home Study Assessment, involving home visits, interviews and counselling sessions, is done.
“You need to provide two references from persons who can speak to your character, as well as your caring capacity to take care of a child. A medical is also requested of you, as well as from the child that is to be adopted,” Mrs. Bagalue said.
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