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Reforms to ensure safety of children underway

Nana Oye LithurGhana is putting in measures and reforms to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children, especially those in the alternative care system (adoption and foster care), in line with the provisions of The Hague Convention.

Nana Oye Lithur, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, announced this at a meeting with representatives of Non-Governmental Organisations and agencies in child care services to discuss the reforms.

The reforms, she said, addressed the gaps in the existing system and laws on adoption and foster care, including the Children’s Act 1998, Act 560, had structures and guidelines for both in-country and inter-country adoptions.

She said the reforms were the result of the recommendations made by a Technical Working Group, instituted by the Ministry with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2010, to assess the alternative care system in Ghana.

She noted that prior to the institution of the Working Group, there had been concerns on the inter-country adoptions, with Ghana being ranked among the top 20 countries with the highest rates of inter-country adoptions.

This prompted the Government, she said, to commission an audit between 2008 and 2012.

It found, among other things, that 96 per cent of the Homes sampled were unlicensed and unknown to the State, while the number of orphanages had increased by 169 per cent between 2005 and 2012.

Based on the recommendation of the Group, Ghana has gone through the processes to accede to The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption.

Nana Oye said Ghana placed the Instrument of accession to the Convention at The Hague in April 2016, and it was awaiting a response.

On completion, she said, the provisions of the Convention would be binding on Ghana.

She said the national frameworks were also being reformed to make them compliant with the provisions of The Hague Convention as well as other international frameworks, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

She explained that The Children’s Act Amendment Bill, which was before Parliament, made provisions for the centralisation of adoptions to ensure the proper coordination, restriction of adoptions to the high courts, which were not specified in the old law.

Besides, she said, the Bill had clear definitions of the roles of competent authorities in the placement of children for alternative care, children who qualified for foster care and adoption and the offences and punishments against those who violated the care processes.

The amendments, she stated, would formalise the establishment of a central adoption authority within the Department of Social Development, which would enable the Government to better comply with its international obligations on children’s rights among, other benefits.

“We are also working on the passage of Foster Care and Adoption Regulations that will enable government to lift the 2013 moratorium on the adoption and allow for the adoption processing procedures to fit within the framework of the Hague convention,” she stated.

Mr. Edmund Amarkwei Foley, of the GIMPA Law School, took the participants through the challenges and gaps in the existing laws that necessitated the reforms as well as the provisions of the Amendment Bill.

He explained that in deciding to place any child in foster care or up for adoption, the best interest of the child must always be paramount and the new provisions ensured this, including provisions for children above 14 years to give their written consent for adoption.

Madam Emilia Akotia, the Head of the Central Adoption Authority, said among other interventions, a Foster Care Fund would be established to help support individual foster care givers.

The fund would be managed by the Foster Care Services Unit of the Department of Social Development.

Mrs Jane Irina Adu, the Head of the Potters Village Ghana, which operates a shelter for abused women and abandoned children, said the reforms, especially foster care, were good and would help relieve some of the orphanages and home of some stress of taking in and providing for many children.

“If the children are given to foster parents, who will carry the responsibilities of the children in love, taking them as their own children and not discriminating against them, or using them as slaves or servants, then it’s a perfect thing,” she stated.

She, however, stressed the need to conscientise the public on the need to foster other children, considering that it was in the interest of the nation as a whole.

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