Adoption In Namibia.In Namibia roughly eighty children are adopted each year, while nearly fourteen thousand children are in foster care. According to the Legal Assistance Centre, adoption is a valuable way of affording children the benefits of family life. The current law on adoption (The Children's Act 33 of 1960) is in the process of being amended as the government reviews the draft Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA). The new act outlines regulations that make adoption a reasonable means of alternative care, while protecting the rights of Namibian children and birth parents.
Closed and open adoption
There are two kinds of adoptions available in Namibia--closed adoptions and open adoptions. In a closed adoption, the identity of the birth parents is kept hidden from the adopting parents and vice-versa. In the current law, this option is known as "non-disclosure". Both the child's parent/guardian and the adoptive parents must agree to this.
As of 2003, however, most Namibian adoptions are "open", meaning that identities of all parties are known. This trend in Namibia is in line with a similar trend towards more openness in many parts of the world. It is consistent with the guarantee in the Namibian Constitution (Article 15(1)) that a child "know" her or his parents as far as possible.
Consenting to adoption
While the current law requires consent from both birth parents if they are married, it only requires the consent of the child's mother if the child is born outside of marriage. The draft CCPA on the other hand stipulates that both birth parents must give consent to the adoption, regardless if the parents are married or not. This more progressive stance recognises that men, too, are responsible for caring for and raising children and that they, too, have parental rights.
Consent is not needed if a parent (whether mother or father) is deemed mentally incompetent, has abandoned the child, cannot be found or identified, has abused or neglected the child or has allowed the child to be abused or neglected. Consent is also not required from a parent who has consistently failed to fulfill parental responsibilities. The Children's Court can overrule a lack of consent where it finds the adoption would be in the child's best interests.
Because giving up a child for adoption is not an easy decision, the draft CCPA includes a sixty-day "cooling off period" that would allow the birth parents to change their minds after they have given consent to the adoption. During this period, the child would live with the adoptive parents, but could be returned to the birth parents if consent is withdrawn.
In 2004, the High Court of Namibia ruled that it is unconstitutional to have a blanket rule preventing foreigners from adopting Namibian children, because such adoptions may sometimes provide the best family environment for a child.
The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption is an international agreement first signed in 1993. It provides procedures for intercountry adoption aimed at preventing abuses like abduction, exploitation, sale or trafficking of children. The agreement requires that countries can consider intercountry adoption only after exploring options for placing the child within the child's home country. It is designed to make sure that intercountry adoptions are child-centred rather than adult-centred.
Many countries have signed this agreement. Namibia has not yet signed the agreement but may do so in the future. The Hague Convention would provide a framework for intercountry adoption which would protect the best interests of Namibian children.
* Adoption in Namibia was adapted from a document produced by the Legal Assistance Centre, Draft Child Care Protection Act, Issue for Public Debate:Adoption (2009).