The Children’s Act of Ghana (Act 560) is currently undergoing amendment in Parliament as the country prepares to tighten noose on foster-care and adoptions in order to meet international standards.
The amendments became necessary following observations of weaknesses in the alternative care management system in Ghana, particularly, with regards to accounting for children who enter the care system, the negative effect of institutionalization to the psycho-social development of the child, and the need to protect children sent out of the Republic through inter country adoptions.
The Children’s (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which was taken through the second reading stage on the Floor of Parliament on Wednesday, will ensure the strengthening of the legislative framework for the protection of the interest of children in need of care and protection. The Bill empowers the Minister to regulate Foster-care, adoption processes as well and agencies engaged in foster-care and adoption.
Moving the motion for the second reading of the amendment Bill, the Deputy Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Della Sowah, said the amendment will enable Ghana to better comply with alternative care provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1990, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the 1993 Hague Convention.
According to the Deputy Minister, the Bill addresses the identified gaps in the previous law and establishes a Central Authority on adoption to foster co-operation with other Central Authorities of States Parties to the Hague Convention, 1993.
“Currently, the provisions on alternative care for children under Part IV of the Children’s Act, 1998 (560) fall short of the Hague Convention 1993 standards. There is a need to update the provisions on foster-care and adoption to serve as a credible guide to undertaking alternative care for children. Similarly, there is the need to make room for authorized stakeholders to play more significant roles in placement, management, monitoring and evaluation in foster-care and adoption.” She observed.
Members of Parliament In their contributions to the debate at the second reading of the Amendment Bill, were very supportive of the rational for the amendments and the key principles underpinning the object of the Bill contained in its memorandum.
According to the memorandum, “Currently, placement of vulnerable children in foster-care and adoption is uncoordinated, making it impossible to track the whereabouts and welfare of children who come into the alternative care system. Individual officers of the Department and Homes both private and public, place children in foster-careand adoption without feeling obligated to account for their decision to superior officers or the Department.”
The Majority Leader and Member of Parliament for Nadowli/Kaleo constituency, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, indicated in his contribution that the amendment was long overdue since the country’s adoption regime is based on the 1960 Adoption Act, which is not abreast with current developments in the sector.
The Member of Parliament for the Ablekuma West constituency, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, on her part urged that measures should be put in place to ensure that the adoption process is made much easier to encourage more couples to adopt and foster children in the country and efforts should be made to de-stigmatize adoption. She even suggested that government should consider introducing tax incentives for couples who may want to foster or adopt some of these homeless children.
The Akim Oda MP, William Quaittoo Agyapong, was more concerned about the institution of some punitive measures to deal with some of these irresponsible parents who cause some of these children to become homeless in the first place.
And similarly, the MP for the Amenfi East constituency, George Arthur wants the laws to be updated to force operators of foster-homes and adoption centers to declare their assets before and after they decide to stop engaging in running a home. According to him, after some people have used some of these children to raise the needed capital for themselves, they shun the children to pursue other projects.
However, Mavis Hawa Koomson, who is the MP for the Awutu Senya East constituency in the Central Region is of the view that, since poverty is the main catalyst that make children to end up at the foster homes that lead to adoption, families should be well resourced and equipped to be able to provide for their needs and that of their dependents.