Adopting from Africa has been popular throughout the years, and one of the continents most associated with adoption due to the media. When considering adopting from Africa, oftentimes people ignore the fact that Africa is a continent made up of multiple countries with individual laws and regulations regarding adoption. Generally, when adopting from Africa, you will need to know the laws governing adopting in the United States, Africa, and the African state from which you are adopting. These laws will outline the importance of the Hague Convention, the African adoption process, and special considerations when adopting from Africa.
The Hague Convention
The Hague Convention is an agreement by over 100 countries to follow certain guidelines and processes in regards to international adoption. This convention is in place essentially to protect children, prevent human trafficking, and streamline the adoption process to more efficiently place children in forever homes. In the article “7 Things You Didn’t Know About The Hague Convention,” this agreement is further explained stating “There are ‘Hague guidelines’ for paperwork and preadoption education and the Hague dictates which accredited adoption service providers you can use to complete intercountry adoptions to the United States.” It is important to know what African countries have agreed to the Hague Convention as many agencies will only work within these countries, and the process is often much more efficient with less preparation needed for unknowns that may occur. There may also be much less red tape to deal with in countries that have this agreement.
The cost of adoption in Africa will vary based on the circumstances surrounding the adoption process and the country from which you are adopting. Adoption.com has a great chart in the International Adoption Guide that outlines a rough estimate of costs as follows:
- Application Fee: $150-$300
- Home Study: $1,500-$2,750
- Dossier Fee: $2,700
- Adoption Program Fee (varies by country): $4,750-$12,250
- Travel for an Escorted Child: $1,500-$4,000
- Post-Placement: $700-$1400
- Orphanage Fee (required by some agencies): Varies
This chart is just a rough breakdown of possible costs but does not include travel and lodging for the prospective adoptive family. There may be a need for multiple visits to the child’s country, depending on the country’s requirements, which can add to the cost of the adoption substantially. The International Adoption Guide also has some great tips on how to fund some of these costs.
The first step in adoption from Africa would be to find an adoption agency that specializes in international adoption. This agency will need to be accredited by the International Adoption Accreditation & Maintenance Entity (IAAME). This government entity evaluates criteria for and collects a large fee from any agency that wants to be accredited to handle international adoptions. These agencies also must be Hague accredited. This is still true even if you are not adopting from a Hague country. It is incredibly important to vet any agency you are contemplating using as not all agencies are ethical or right for you. Check reviews, ask for recommendations, and do your own research to select an ethical and efficient agency. There have been considerable concerns about human trafficking with adoption from Africa throughout the past few years. In January of 2018, Ethiopia even banned adoption from their country to the United States due largely to these concerns. CNN profiled stories on children who had been essentially “sold” to their adoptive parents via unethical adoption agencies. Be certain you have done due diligence when it comes to finding a great and ethical agency to handle your adoption from Africa.
Once you have vetted and chosen an adoption agency, you will then go through the process of the home study in order to be approved to adopt from Africa. If the African state from which you are adopting is part of the Hague convention, the home study will be very similar to a domestic adoption, with additional documents needed for international adoption. If you choose an African state that is not part of the Hague convention, they may have other rules or considerations that will need to be a part of the home study. While this home study will also look a lot like any other home study, your agency will need to have knowledge of and follow to the letter any requirements of the child’s home country. Some African countries also have restrictions on who can adopt. Some of these countries may restrict single parents, same-sex couples, and certain age groups. To find out more about what the country from which you are hoping to adopt requires, check out that country’s Wiki page.
While a home study for international adoption will be very similar to a domestic home study, it is vital that the social worker assigned your case takes the time to find out all of the requirements of the African country from which you are adopting and gathers all needed paperwork. Adoption in Africa looks different from country to country, so there is no succinct answer on what each country might require. According to the article “What You Should Know About International Adoption,” the following bullet points outline an idea of what additional documents other countries may require:
- A more detailed income report. Domestic adoption requires your tax return, but international adoption may also require a notarized letter from your employer stating how long you have worked there, what your yearly pay is, and how secure your position is.
- A notarized letter from your city or local police station, stating that you are a citizen in good standing.
- Background checks and fingerprints. This is the same requirement for a domestic home study.
- One thing to note is that for some countries, every single paper you submit needs to be notarized or stamped by the office or agency verifying it for you.
- At least 10+ hours of education training.
In this same article, social worker Dianna Rytting states, “Many countries require that a hopeful adoptive couple obtain a preapproval before they are allowed to move forward with the adoption process. Preapproval is a statement of intent to adopt from a certain country. Special forms must be filled out. An I-600A form is required for non-Hauge approved countries, and an I-800A form is for Hauge approved countries.”
Once you the home study has been completed, it will be submitted for review by both the United States and the country from which you are adopting to make sure that all the necessary requirements were met. Once you have an approved home study, you will likely be matched with a child. This match occurs through either your adoption agency, the country’s adoption committee, or during an in-country visit. There may be multiple visits to the country’s requirements. There are also countries, such as Uganda, that require prospective adoptive parents to foster their child in the child’s home country for a certain length of time before being able to adopt her or take her back to the United States.
After your match has occurred, in many African countries, the child you are adopting will need to be found eligible for adoption. For instance, in regards to adoption from South Africa, the process can be quite extensive. According to the How To Adopt from South Africa Guide, prospective adoptive parents have to apply to the U.S Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for using Form 1-800 to gain initial acceptance of the child’s probable eligibility for adoption and entry into the United States. There will then need to be an application with the U.S. Consulate in South Africa, which would then be submitted for approval to South Africa’s Adoption Authority. The process is not easy and not often quick, but every step must be adhered to for a child to be eligible to travel after the adoption is finalized in the child’s home country upon approval from each entity.
One of the vital aspects of adopting a child from another country is getting to know the child’s culture. Adopting from Africa will be no different in this respect. Even if the child is young upon coming to the United States, it will important for his development to know about and maintain a connection with the culture from which he came. Before embarking on adoption in Africa, it would be wise to not only read up on African culture, but study the culture and ways of the country in Africa from which you will adopt. While your child will not likely practice these ways in her day-to-day life, she will likely one day want to know about the culture from which she came. If you are adopting an older child from Africa, he may have a lot of his culture ingrained in him, and it will be important for you to respect his identity and help him to retain his sense of self even though he has moved to the United States.
As your child grows, respecting and acknowledging his or her culture may look like coming alongside your child to learn about Africa. With social media and other networks that your adoption agency may be able to provide you, it may even be possible to connect with local families who have also adopted from Africa. Having someone in her life who can relate to her on a cultural and racial level will be incredibly beneficial for your child. It would also be beneficial to visit your child’s home country and learn about the culture and the customs so that you can relate to your child and provide him with the tools he will need in the future to explore his heritage.