Many shy away from the prospect of adopting simply due to the fact that not enough light has been shed on the legal processes involved. This article seeks to delve into the legal steps involved in adoption.
Of paramount importance, when it comes to issues relating to children, is the best interests of the child. The ultimate goal in the process of adoption is fostering and encouraging the child's happiness, security, mental health and emotional development.
- The first step is making an Application to the Children's court as set out in Section 57(1) of the Children's Act (Chapter 5:06). This court is located at any local Magistrate's Court.
- The Children's Court will in turn refer the Application to the District or Provincial Social Welfare Offices.
- A probation officer will be appointed in terms of Section 57(2) Children's Act (Chapter 5:06) by the Social Welfare department.
- This probation officer will be the guardian ad litem of the minor. He/ She will bear the responsibility of safe guarding the interests of the minor before the court. The prospective parents would have to be vetted. One of the key ways in which this vetting is done is through furnishing the appointed probation officer with a police clearance from the Zimbabwe Republic Police. Furthermore, the probation officer must also assess the prospective adoptive parent's home to ensure the child's best interests will be sustained if indeed adoption is granted. The medical status of the child will also be examined and the medical report will in turn be given to the prospective adoptive parents and the court. A comprehensive report will need to be completed by the guardian ad litem containing the above information.
- The prospective adoptive parents are then placed on an adoption waiting list.
- This is a pivotal element in the adoptive process. To begin with, there is need for consent from the biological parents. This is satisfied by the biological parent filling in a prescribed form and submitting a certificate endorsed by the Magistrate. This certificate will indicate that they fully understand the effects of adoption, one of them being that they will be permanently deprived of parental rights. If on the other hand the child was in a children's home at the time of the adoption application, consent would have to come from the children's home. Where the party wishing to adopt is married, consent would be needed from the respective spouse.
- The Hearing stage. At this stage a hearing of the application is done in the children's court. These hearings are done in private and the identity of the child is protected at all costs throughout the proceedings. This is in accordance with Section 57(3) of the Children's Act (Chapter 5:06). It follows that the individuals present in the court room will be limited. As such, the persons present in the court room will include court officials and the respective guardian ad litem and close relatives of the child. It also follows that the child's particulars will not be disclosed. When the above process has been adhered to, the effects of the adoption become applicable. The adopted child will be entitled to all the rights a biological child would have such as inheritance. The child will also bear the surname of the adoptive parents. All in all, the adopted child in all respects becomes the child.
- All things being equal, the process should lead prospective adoptive parents to the stage of obtaining an adoption order. Once an adoption order is granted, a record is made at The Registrar General of Births and Deaths office. A record is made in the Adopted Children's Register. From there, the change of the name of the Child can be made.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.