Understanding the real rules of international adoption

by Jill Nelson
Posted 11/04/15, 08:56 am

Africa has become the new “hot spot” for international adoptions, and that trend has led to some disturbing developments: Recent reports show corruption and child trafficking in some countries where international adoption is on the rise. As adoptive parents strive to untangle the web of laws, inherent risks, and seemingly endless requirements, turning to those with “boots on the ground” is one way to make sense of the confusion.

An article in the current issue of WORLD Magazine draws attention to adoption pilot programs in Tanzania, a country with stringent adoption laws that require prospective parents to live in the country for three years. Some adoption agencies claim Tanzania will waive the residency requirement if it’s in “the best interest of the child.”

Others say these agencies are misguided. Amy Hathaway, founder of an orphanage in Mwanza, Tanzania, said adoption agencies that skirt the law are fueling corruption and jeopardizing the future of all legal adoptions: “I am guessing they are misguided because they are working with a corrupt lawyer and social worker who are telling them it is legal. But any agency worth anything would investigate the real rules and regulations and not agree to fund corruption.”

Hathaway said she has personally spoken with the commissioner for social welfare (who has to approve all adoptions in Tanzania) and clarified that international adoptions cannot take place without the three-year residency requirement. The Hathaways have five adopted children from Tanzania who range in age from 8 to 14. The family moved back to England last summer in order to provide better care and schooling for one of their children who is deaf.

When Hathaway stumbles upon a fund-raising page for an international Tanzanian adoption, she attempts to contact the family and make them aware of the country’s strict adoption laws. “I fear this corruption will make leaders in Tanzania have a knee-jerk reaction soon and ban all adoptions, which will be devastating,” she said. 

Jill Nelson

Jill is a correspondent for WORLD. She is a graduate of World Journalism Institute and the University of Texas at Austin. Jill lives in Orange County, Calif., with her husband, two sons, and three daughters. Follow her on Twitter @WorldNels.

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