Adoption: Concept, Laws and Procedure



• Introduction

• Definition of terms

• Definition

• History

• Factors that necessitate adoption

• Forms of adoption

• Nigeria adoption requirement

• Laws of adoption

• Procedures

• conclusion


The term Adopt is derived from the Latin word adoptare Ad =to
• Optare= choose

Adoption is one of the oldest social institutions. Nevertheless, adoption still raises highly emotive issues because of its fundamental implications for the meaning of family ties.

Questions on whether adoption serves the best interests of children, who should be allowed to adopt and the role of government in regulating such decisions are frequent subjects of debate.

Adoption is recognized as one of the forms of alternative care for children who have been temporarily or permanently deprived of their family environment.

Definition of terms

• Adoption: is the process whereby a court irrevocably extinguishes the legal ties between a child and the natural parents or guardians and create analogues ties between the child and the adopters.

• Custody: the care and control of a thing or person. The keeping, guarding, care, watch, inspection, preservation or security of a thing, carrying with it the idea of the thing being within the immediate personnel care and control of the person to whose custody it is subjected.

• Guardianship: a guardianship is a legal right given to a person to be responsible for the food, health care, housing and other necessities of a person for himself or herself.

• Law: it is binding custom or practice of a community.

• Act: it is a formal product of a legislative body.


Adoption is the process whereby a court irrevocably extinguishes the legal ties between a child and the natural parents or guardians and create analogues ties between the child and the adopters.

Adoption permanently changes the relationship between the child and adults involved and the biological parent gives up all parental rights and obligations to the child unlike in guardianship where the biological parents still give financial support and if biological parents die, the child has a legal right to inherent.

Adoption confers on the child all rights as if the child were born to the adoptive parent(s) in lawful wedlock.

It also imposes on the adoptive parent(s) parental responsibility equivalent to that of the natural parents of the child.

History of Adoption

Adoption is spoken of in the Holy Bible (Exodus 2:1-10). Greeks and Romans, Egyptians and Babylonians all had adoption systems.The practice of Adoption in ancient Rome is well documented in the Codex Justinianus and the rights of adopters was written in the Code of Hammurabi in Babylonia. The concept of adoption wasn’t legally recognized in the United States until the 1850s, with the inception of the first adoption statutes.

The earliest statute on adoption in Nigeria was the Adoption Law of 1965 of the defunct Eastern Region of Nigeria.

In contrast, none of the states of the Northern part of the country (which are a majority) has any legislation on adoption. The reason is that these states are predominantly inhabited and controlled by muslims whose religious beliefs do not favour adoption.

Such was the state of the law on Adoption in Nigeria until 2003 when the National Assembly enacted the Child’s Right Act, part of which makes copious provisions regulating adoption in Nigeria.

Factors that necessitate adoption

• The factors include:
• The fact of being childless.
• The desire to replace a dead child
• To acquire a companion for an only child

• To stabilize a marriage
• To legitimate an illegitimate child
• To sustain a particular line of descent

• To rescue a child who is in an irreversible situation of abandonment
• To relieve parents who are unable to take care of their child.

Forms of Adoption

They include:
• Domestic Adoption
• International Adoption

Domestic Adoption

This type of adoption simply refers to the process of a citizen of a country adopting a child who is also a citizen of the country.

There are 4 types of domestic adoption;

• Public Adoption from foster care
• Adoption through a licensed agency
• Adoption through an unlicensed agency or facilitator

• Independent Adoption

Public Adoption

• In this form of adoption, children become available because their parents decided to make an adoption plan or because the court decided that the child must be permanently removed from their birth parents.

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• There is no cost to adoptive parents to go through the public adoption process with a children’s aid society

• Most children available adoption beyond the of  infancy. They tend to be older and are from a range of ethnic and racial backgrounds.

• Due to experience in their early lives, some are coping with emotional or behavioural challenges.

• However, all have in common the need for a loving, caring family to call their own and help them reach their full potential.

Licensed Private Adoption

• Most children placed through private adoptions are newborns.
• Birth parents often relinquish their parental rights to the agency at the birth of their child.

• It offers the ability to gain information on your child’s birth family history (medically and socially).

• There are relatively few babies available for adoption compared to the number of families seeking to adopt babies.

• Unlicensed agencies and facilitators often do not have the same State oversight consequently, there may be more financial, emotional and legal risk for the adoptive and birth parents.

Independent Adoption

• In this form of Adoption, the birth parents relinquish their parental rights directly to the adoptive parents through an attorney instead of an agency.

• Direct contact allows more extensive background information for the child, including medical, social, and religious histories.

International Adoption

• In this form of adoption, the children can be infants, toddlers, and school age.

• Most of the children have spent time in an orphanage.

• It is the most costly of all adoptions.

• Waiting time varies from country to country depending on the country you are adopting from.

• The prospective adoptive parent will need to meet the child they are adopting in their home country and must complete the required steps.

• Most international adoptions are finalized in the child’s country of origin.

Adoption can also be classified as

  • Open Adoption
  • Semi-Open Adoption
  • Closed Adoption

Open Adoption

• Here the adoptive parents and the birth parents both know each others full names and have come to a mutual agreement on how
involved they would be in each others lives.

Semi-Open Adoption

• This arrangement can range from updates sent from an adoptive parents through a mediator for a set amount of time to the adoptive parents and birth parents actually meeting before the child is born but only known to each other by their first names.

• After the birth of the child correspondence occurs through a third party only.

Closed Adoption

• Neither the adoptive parents nor the birth parents know each other nor do they ever meet.

• All arrangement and paperwork occurs through a mediator, usually an adoption agency or attorney.

Nigeria Adoption Requirement

• Nigeria has the following eligibility requirements according to section 129 of the Child’s Right Act. They include :

1. Residency Requirements

2. Age Requirements

3. Marriage Requirements

4. Income Requirements

Residency Requirements

• For an adoption order to be made, both the child and applicant must be resident in the state where the application is made and the applicant must have been resident for at least five years.

• Nigerian law requires that a parent-child relationship be established before the court decision can be considered final.

Age Requirements

• Prospective adoptive parent must be at least 25 years of age

• For married couples, each of them must have attained the age requirement.

Marriage Requirements

• Both single individuals and married couples may adopt.

• Married couples where each of them has attained the age of twenty-five years and there is an order authorizing them jointly to adopt a child.

Income Requirements

• Nigeria doesn’t have any income requirement.

Adoption Procedure

• The process for adopting a child in Nigeria generally includes the following steps;
1. Choose an Adoption Service Provider

2. Apply to be found eligible to adopt

3. Be matched with a child

4. Adopt the Child

5. Apply for the child to be found eligible for adoption.


Choose an Adoption Service Provider

• The first step in adopting a child in Nigeria is usually to select a licensed agency that can help with your adoption.

• Adoption service providers must be licensed by the Nigerian Government.


Apply to be found eligible to adopt

• The prospective parent must meet the adoption requirement.

• The individual must apply to be found eligible to adopt by government.

• The applicant for an adoption order must inform the chief welfare officer of his intention to adopt the juvenile at least three months before the order is made.

• Moreover, for at least three consecutive months immediately preceding an adoption order, the juvenile must have been continuously in the care and possession of the applicant

• This is intended to give both the applicant and the juvenile an opportunity of being familiar with each other.

Be matched with a Child

• If the prospective parent is eligible to adopt.

• Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of a particular child.

Adopt the Child

• The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Nigeria generally includes the following:

i. role of the adoption authority

ii. Role of the court

iii. Time frame

iV. adoption fees

V. Documents required.

Role of the adoption authority

• The social welfare office of the state where the child is located is considered the adoption authority.

• The application for adoption originates from the social welfare office of the state where the child is located.

• The government office responsible for adoptions in Nigeria is the magistrate court of the state where the child is located.

Role of the court

• In most Nigerian states, the adoption process begins when an application for an adoption order is made in accordance with local requirements and submitted to the registrar of the competent court.

• The court then assigns a guardian ad litem for the child to represent him/her in the adoption proceedings. The guardian ad litem is the social welfare officer in charge of the area where the child resides, or some other person suitably qualified in the opinion of the court of assignment.

• The guardian ad litem investigates the circumstances related to the proposed adoption.

• He/she visits the home of the adoptive parents until the officer is satisfied that the child is settled and that the prospective parents are capable of looking after him or her and then files a report to the court.

• The magistrate will meet the adoptive parents in court to confirm their suitability and will issue or deny the adoption order.

Time Frame

• Adoption procedures can take from a few months to over a year depending on the child’s state of origin.

Adoption Fees

• There are no standard fees charged apart from small filing fees to the court.

Documents Required

The following is a list of some of required documents:

• Birth certificates
• Marriage certificates
• Divorce certificate (where applicable)

Law of adoption

• In 2003, the National Assembly enacted the Child’s Right Act, part of which makes provisions regulating adoption in Nigeria.

• The Act provides that the government and the federal government shall, for the purpose of adoption, establish and maintain each state and federal capital territory, Abuja respectively, a service designed to meet the needs of

– a child who has been or may be adopted

– parents and guardians of such child; and

– persons who have adopted or who may adopt a child.

Recommendation to the Government

• Social welfare officers and other authority in the ministries of social development should ensure that eligibility criteria for adoption and its processes are not flouted, but strictly adhere to.

• The government should ensure that ALL states of the federation, should enforce this laws.

• There should be a review of section 129 (a) (1) and section 131(1) (a)


• Adoption is the process whereby a court irrevocably extinguishes the legal ties between a child and the natural parents or guardians and create analogues ties between the child and the adopters.

• The society therefore should accept the adoption and practice whole heartedly, there is no doubt that the establishment of adoption law and the child care principle that is embedded in it has helped to reduce the number of social misfit and law breakers in our various societies.


• Adoption act (1976)

• Child’s Right Act (2003)

Clement N. (2011) Offence of Adoption: law and policy in the Nigeria legal system.

• Larry, C. (2004) Adoption of children in Nigeria under the child’s right act 2003

• Meiser, R and Velen, M. (2005). The History of Adoption.

• Ojochide A. (2012). The ABC of Adoption A review of Adoption of Children in Nigeria: Autohohouse

• Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth services. (2013). Types of Adoption: Queen press

• Nigerian Adoption Law (2006)

• Nwogugu E, Family Law in Nigeria (ibadan: Heinemann 1990)p 312

• Ufeli, E.(2011) History of Child Adoption under the Nigerian Law

• United Nations (2009) Child Adoption; Trends and policies

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