Sun | Jan 16, 2022

Xinyu Addae-Lee | Amendment of adoption laws, pipeline or pipe dream?

Published:Sunday | December 5, 2021 | 12:07 AM
Dr Xinyu Addae-Lee
Dr Xinyu Addae-Lee
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Just a short search of the topic of adoption will reveal several articles surrounding the amendments to the Children (Adoption of) Act 1958. On January 20, 2014, an article published in The Observer titled ‘Adoption Act under Review’, indicated that, “The Adoption Board is conducting a review of the country’s Adoption Act in its bid to make the adoption process in Jamaica less tedious and conform with international standards.” And that the then Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna said “the review is being conducted with the help of consultants engaged by the Child Development Agency (CDA)”.

On April 25, 2014 an article titled ‘Adoption Act To Be Amended’ was published, indicating that the then Child Development Agency was reviewing the act, “with a view to improving the adoption processes and procedures, so they can be fully understood by members of the public”. The then Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the CDA and the current CEO of the CPFSA, Rosalee Gage-Grey, was quoted as saying, “We are on time to present the policy document to the minister, so after that the legislative framework will take over from there.”

On September 10, 2018, an article in The Gleaner titled, ‘Government to make adoption easier’, was published, indicating that the then Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information Floyd Green said “The legislation, which was passed in 1958, is outdated,” and quoted him saying, “A number of things have changed in relation to the rights of the child ... and as such, one of the things we had to look at is to ensure that the adoption accords with the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the Child Care and Protection Act. So the technical team has done that and has suggested some changes. We also have to look at ... how we can ensure that our adoption process is facilitatory while still protecting our children.” The article ended by stating that the legislation is currently before the Attorney General’s Department.

On October 16, 2019, ‘Changes to the Adoption Act being finalised’, was published in which the then State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Alando Terrelonge, was said to have indicated that, “the amendments will make the adoption process in Jamaica less tedious, while protecting the welfare of children”. He was also quoted to have said, “I can report that the lawyers from CPFSA have met with the lawyers from the ministry. We also invited Jamaicans for Justice. We discussed changes to the legislation, and those changes are being finalised for the Cabinet submission to be prepared and sent off.” Several newspaper articles have also addressed this.

In an article published by The Gleaner on December 16, 2020, titled ‘Major changes coming to adoption and abandoned babies issues’ indicated that the Minister of State in the Ministry of Education Youth and Information, Robert Nesta Morgan’ is quoted to have said that, “We are seeking to increase the number of social workers and build the agency’s capacity to shorten the timelines between children entering care and being placed in approved foster or adoptive families. The time it takes for a child to be placed with a forever family is much too long. This must change.” And the Minister of Education, Youth and Information Fayval Williams is quoted saying, “Our 1958 act was copied from the British; they have revised their laws four times since. Our adoption laws and processes need to be updated to better serve children who are adopted, the families that adopt them, and birth parents.” In the same article we were promised changes “early next year”.

NOTHING TO SHOW

I think we can all agree early 2021 has come and gone! We have heard nothing more, and we have not cried out in outrage for yet another year with nothing to show for it. I often wonder what kind of conscience it takes to say something and not mean it, to make a promise and not act on it, to create hope where there is none. Such inaction is inexcusable in and of itself, but to inflate and incite expectation in those heavy burdened with the woes of the adoption system and let them down is simply unconscionable. Without digging too deep I have uncovered almost eight years of statements indicating we are on the verge of change. How much more can we stomach?

Reading through all these empty promises and statements has caused me to feel somewhat ashamed of what we as a country have accepted. While we continue to fail to hold our politicians accountable, families are hindered from being formed and children suffer the insecurity and indignity of not being able to truly belong. We cannot allow this sanctimonious speech to continue.

While we listen to the hollow words of our ministers, the voiceless children, who are already suffering some level of neglect, are being further neglected and left without recourse. The children who are affected by this act deserve to be prioritised, not pacified. Our ministers need to produce timelines and results. Who is being consulted regarding the changes to the act? What is the deadline for those suggestions? When will a bill be drafted? Who is going to introduce the bill to Parliament? There are several stages to go through thereafter, so who is going to advocate and propel the process forward so that the bill can be passed?

Give us answers. I am quite frankly tired of hearing that the changes are in some pipeline somewhere. This cannot continue to be some mystical pipe dream. Give us something to put in our pipe and smoke it!

Dr Xinyu Addae-Lee is a medical doctor and attorney-at-law. She practises in both areas and is passionate about advocating for the adoption process to be more transparent, efficient, and family-focused. Send feedback to law.x.jm@gmail.com.