When we were led to adopt from Ghana back in 2008 the program through our agency was considered a pilot program. We sort of got to be the pioneers for our agency as we took part in the adoption, not really knowing the ins and outs…just learning as we went. During our adoption I remember trying to educate myself on Ghana especially when it came to orphans. We had so many people asking us questions, and I wanted to be able to give factual answers. However, the information we had access to was minimal because at the time Ghana was fairly new to the idea of adoption, and our agency was new to Ghana as well. We ourselves were complete adoption novices and I found myself asking a lot of the same questions that family and friends were asking us!
This time around is already much different. We are using a different agency, and one of the first things we received in the mail was a thick educational packet all about Ghana heritage, history, education, social roles, and the process of Ghana adoption. It has been extremely informative…..I almost feel geeky over how excited I am to finally have all this information laid out for me! :)
One section that I found extremely insightful was a part entitled ~ Why do children in Ghana become available for adoption? We were asked this question a million times in roundabout ways during our adoption of Justice! Thought it would be good to share this section here on the blog in case others are interested in understanding the different situations of orphans in Ghana (these explanations are via our agency ~ Adoption Advocates International):
1) Inherited orphans: Traditionally, orphaned children are absorbed into the extended family. However, we have found that many family members only take on orphaned children out of a sense of familial obligation and in fact have no desire (or means) to provide for another child. As a result orphaned children may have extended family guardians that either treat the child as a slave/servant or provide the child with less than adequate care and love. When these guardians realize that there is another option (relinquish the child for care and adoption) they are many times very quick to make an adoption plan for the child.
2) One-parent orphans: Many children in Ghana are being raised by one parent that cannot provide adequate care due to poverty. The second parent is usually dead or has permanently deserted the family. Children who only have one parent oftentimes have no opportunity for education and are forced into child labor in order to help provide for the family. *This was Justice’s situation and why he was placed for adoption.
3) Two-parent orphans: It is outside the normal definition of “orphan” to describe an orphan as having two living parents. However, we do see this in Ghana. In these cases the parents, for whatever reason, have no desire to parent the children and abandon them permanently. The parents may be elderly and the child unplanned. The parents may abuse the child and recognize that they cannot adequately care for him/her because of their own psychological issues. The parents may be homeless and have no means to provide adequate food, shelter, or education to the child. In all cases, the parents must be living below poverty level according to local standards in order for AAI to take custody of the child. *This sort of situation reminds me a lot of children being placed into the foster care system in the United States.
4) Street children: Street children are a common sight in Ghana. These are children who have lost contact with their parents and may or may not know of any extended family. Street children can be referred to AAI by someone in the community or from social welfare. The best effort is made to find any living relatives but sometimes this is impossible. If a suitable living condition within Ghana cannot be found for a street child than a long-term care plan that includes international adoption can be put together.
I’ve also had a handful of people inquire about the age of children available for adoption in Ghana. Here is an explanation via our agency….this information is on their website as well (http://www.adoptionadvocates.org/Africa/Ghana/index.php):
Ghana Social Welfare prefers to place children through domestic adoptions, but when no Ghanaian family can be located for an adoptable child, they may be placed with an international family. Babies 0-36 months may be in need of adoption from time to time, but this is not an “infant/toddler program.” The large majority of children available for adoption are age 3 and up. Both sibling sets and single children are available. When in the best interest of the child, unrelated children may be placed in the same adoptive family. HIV+ children may be adopted from Ghana. There is a great need for families who will adopt children 6 years old and older. Most all children in Ghana have at least some English skills by the time they are adopted (many with moderate English). Children adopted through our program may reside in foster homes or children's homes in any region within Ghana.