Intercountry Adoption: Recommendations for protecting Africa’s children

by Elizabeth Willmott-Harrop

29 May 2012

Fifth International Policy Conference on the African Child
Intercountry Adoption: Alternatives and Controversies
29-30 May 2012, United Nations Conference Centre Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


Fact Sheet 3

A core finding of the report Africa: The New Frontier for Intercountry Adoption, is that the African continent is ill-equipped in law, policy and practice to provide children with the necessary safeguards in respect of intercountry adoptions.

Protecting the best interests of children in Africa should be the primary obligation of African communities, African governments, and African institutions. Where intercountry adoption from Africa is considered to be in the best interests of a specific child, every effort should be made to ensure that the whole system is focussed on “finding a family for a child”, as opposed to “finding a child for a family”.

The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) proposes the following key recommendations:

States must closely assess and scrutinise the need for and the role of intercountry adoption as a child protection measure in their country, against the principle of the best interests of the child, before embarking on the practice.

Treaty bodies, such as the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child should review intercountry adoption policy and practice closely, not only in countries of origin but also in receiving countries. They should also pay special attention to developments in alternative care provision in general, including prevention of the need for such care and its effective oversight.

Governments of receiving countries should, amongst other measures:

  1. Strictly and systematically adhere to the 1993 Hague Convention principles in their dealings with all countries of origin, whether or not they are States Parties;
  2. Prevent actions that may result in excessive “effective demand” for adoptable children being expressed in any country of origin as well as take measures to ensure the proper application of the subsidiarity and adoptability principles and/or rigorous respect for all steps in the adoption process;
  3. Endeavour to reach common stances and make joint approaches when situations of concern arise in which there is prima facie evidence of serious and widespread violation of children’s rights in the intercountry adoption process of a given country of origin;
  4. Seek all possible ways, through bilateral or multilateral cooperation, to assist actual or potential countries of origin to develop suitable preventive and responsive domestic services for children without parental care, in the framework of the Guidelines on Alternative Care for Children (UNGA, 2009). 

African governments should, amongst other measures:

  1. Comprehensively review legislative and procedural provisions regarding intercountry adoption, to ensure that they effectively respond to international standards (especially the ACRWC, CRC and the 1993 Hague Convention) and, in particular, to indicators of risks identified in this report as well as ensuring compliance with the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (UNGA, 2009);
  2. Put in place additional safeguards such as limiting the number of authorised adoption agencies operating in the country and the number of receiving countries to cooperate with; strengthen oversight of child-focused bodies, prohibit independent and private adoptions, closely regulate all financial aspects related to intercountry adoption;
  3. Request bilateral and/or multilateral assistance for developing preventive and gatekeeping services to reduce the number of children coming into residential care facilities, and for promoting and supporting appropriate traditional informal care arrangements, in accordance with the above-mentioned Guidelines.
Liberty & Humanity

Read all fact sheets in the series:

  1. Intercountry Adoption: the African context
  2. Intercountry Adoption: Legal frameworks
  3. Intercountry Adoption: Recommendations for protecting Africa’s children
  4. Intercountry Adoption: Illicit Activities
  5. Intercountry Adoption in Africa: Q&As