No ‘extraordinary’ reports of adopted children being abused, says Morgan
WITH almost 10,000 cases reported last year, child abuse has become disturbingly prevalent across Jamaica. But state minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Robert Nesta Morgan has said that gladly, there are no “extraordinary” reports that children are being abused when they move from State care to an adoptive family.
“As it relates to adopters, we don’t have any data to suggest that there is extraordinary abuse of children when they are adopted, and I think part of the reason is that the process of adopting a child in Jamaica is so intricate. The amount of vetting that they [adopters] go through and the amount of processes that they go through — in many cases, it kinda ferrets out the persons who are not really serious,” Morgan said during a Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.
“If you want to adopt a child in Jamaica it has to be like a lifelong commitment, that ‘This is what I want I want to do and no matter what anybody say, I am going to do it.’ The process is really intricate,” he said.
The Adoption Board is the only body that has responsibility for adoption of children in Jamaica. This service is undertaken for the board by the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), which processes all applications.
In the same breath, Minister Morgan said there is a need for an update of the Children (Adoption of) Act, which was first made operational in January 1958. The Act was last amended in 1982.
“This is why we need to reform the Adoption Act, and we have already started reviewing the policy. We are coming with a brand new law because the one that we have now is from the 1950s. We are making adoptions easier but also making adoptions more accountable, so we have to think about questions like should we allow open adoptions,” Morgan said.
An open adoption allows birth parents to know and maintain contact with their child’s adoptive family. Further, expectant mothers are given the option to choose a family to raise their child.
“Those are very sensitive questions to answer because we saw the recent incident where the child ran away to her biological mother,” Morgan added.
His reference was to 13-year-old Lameika Lamont of Windsor Heights, St Catherine, who was reported missing on March 26. Less than a week later it was discovered that the girl, who had been raised by legally adoptive parents since she was three months old, had weeks before made contact with and was in communication with her biological mother, Camille Blair. Subsequently, Blair said when she learned that Lameika wanted to harm herself, she took her.
“As normal human beings, we want to know our origin,” Morgan argued. “So this child is obviously going to be interested to find out ‘Who am I, and where am I coming from?’ And there is always going to be that biological bond between a mother and child. How do you manage that? Because if it is that there was a purpose or a reason why the adoption took place, has that changed? Are we exposing our children to be traumatised by those situations?”
Morgan reasoned that there are many questions to be explored as the Government moves to update the Adoption Act.
“Is there some great benefit for a child developing a relationship with their biological parents while at the same time allowing a situation where the adoptive parents understand and recognise that this is not a negative thing? These are complicated questions that are going to have to be answered.”
According to the CPFSA, for children to be adopted they must be over six weeks but under 18 years old, and applications must be sent to the Adoption Board at least six months before a child attains his/her 18th birthday.
Birth parents have to agree by giving their consent to adopt — unless they are dead, cannot be found, incapable of giving consent or are withholding consent unreasonably.
Further, to make an adoption legal, a court has to grant an order. Individuals who complete the adoption of children become the legal parents of the children they have adopted, and all the legal rights of biological parents are transferred permanently to the adoptive parents.
“The foster parents are vetted, they are assessed. And there is visitation to the homes to see what is happening,” said Morgan. “But there are challenges. We need to give more support to foster parents, we need to attract more people for foster parenting, and we need to increase the level of accountability in the foster parent ecosystem.”
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