Committee trying to make adoption of children easier in Jamaica
Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
Jamaica's 50-year-old Adoption Act is under review in an effort to make the process of adopting children more in line with international norms and less tedious.
Child Protection Specialist at the United Nation's Children's Fund (UNICEF) Janet Cupidon Quallo told reporters and editors of The Sunday Gleaner that the review should remove some of the obstacles.
"Adoption (in Jamaica) is a very tedious process, very off-putting. A consultant has been taken on to work with the process," said Cupidon Quallo, hours before she attended the first meeting of the Adoption Board Review Committee.
For years there have been concerns that persons wishing to adopt a child in Jamaica have to endure a tedious process which has caused many to give up on the idea.
Under Jamaican law, any person, between the ages of six weeks and 18 years old is eligible for adoption .
Any person, 25 years and older can adopt a child or children. However, the law allows persons who are 18 years old to adopt younger relatives.
Individuals interested in adopting a child or children must first complete a pre-adoption form, which is provided by the Child Development Agency (CDA) and is used to determine if the person is suitable.
If suitability is determined, agents of the CDA will contact the prospective adopter and given an adoption application form and a medical form to be completed.
The CDA will provide a list of the required documentation to be presented to the agency.
The documents include birth certificate, marriage certificate, character references, and letters of responsibility (which transfer guardianship of your adopted child to another adult or adults in the event of your death).
A month-long home-study assessment, involving home visits, interviews and counselling sessions, is conducted by the CDA, and if the assessment is positive, the person will be assisted in finding available children for adoption.
After being paired with a child or children, social workers from the Adoption Board undertake an in-home supervision programme for a minimum of three months.
If they are satisfied with the relationship between child or children and the prospective adopter, the adopter will be instructed to make an application to the Family Court for a licence and or Adoption Order hearing.
On the day of the hearing, the adopter, under the guidance of a case-worker, will address a Family Court judge, giving arguments in support of the adoption of the prospective child or children.
The judge will grant or deny the licence or Adoption Order at the end of the process.
If granted, the adopter assumes full guardianship of the adopted child or children.
If a child is identified for an applicant early in the adoption process, the entire process should take between four and seven months to be completed from the time all documents are received at the Adoption Board's office to the time of the Court hearing.
However, there have been reports of cases taking more than 18 months to be completed.
Residents of Commonwealth countries, Sweden, Denmark, and the United States can adopt Jamaican children, but they require a home study from a licensed social-service agency in the country and a commitment from the agency that it will send periodic reports to Jamaican authorities.