The word “adoption” evokes a lot of mixed reactions from people, especially in African countries. Within the Naija community, adoption is one area where awareness and education is needed to increase its likelihood of being considered or accepted by many who cannot have children of their own.
In most parts of Nigeria, especially in the eastern region of the country, adoption is considered a taboo. It is common knowledge that it is seriously frowned at for a couple to inform their extended family of their desire to adopt a child, regardless of the sensibility of their reasons.
There have been cases of men who have been ostracized from their respective communities because they dared to choose adoption as the solution to end their childlessness, regardless of how obvious it was (e.g. age or other medical reasons) that they might never have any children naturally.
One of the major reasons given by some elders of certain communities on their negative take on adoption is that they believe a total stranger that doesn’t share the blood lineage is not supposed to carry on a particular family’s name or succeed a childless man.
Another reason is the worry of the shame that an adopted child could bring to a man who is highly successful or reputable, or from a family with many years of legacy. Some of the concerns are that the child could easily have a genetic disease that is unknown to the family, or turn out to be a miscreant or some other deviant. Although this concern is valid, what is missed here is that ‘adoption’ is not the reason for how a child turns out. A child’s genetic makeup is definitely as a result of the parents but there are similarly genetic anomalies that occur with biological children of ‘healthy’ parents. It is also easy to show that irresponsible children do come from very responsible families irrespective of the parents’ social or financial status.
It is completely understandable that perhaps the adoption process in Nigeria is not so advanced and that more could be done to improve the amount if information and assistance provided to those who wish to consider adoption. For instance, there are lots of information and assistance available in developed countries to substantiate adoption as an option (e.g. medical records of children and their family history are maintained so that prospective parents have access to this information for an informed decision on what genetic diseases and adoptive child might be pre-disposed to).
Despite this, at the heart of this issue is awareness; availability of information is not the biggest issue, rather it will require a shift in mindset for Nigerians to even begin considering adoption more and more and consider it less of a taboo. If we can start to increase the awareness and/or reduce the associated taboos, the demand in adoption will pave the way for improving the processes around it.
If you are an adoptive parent or adopted child or someone who has an experience with adoption in Nigeria and who would like to share your story to bring more awareness to this issue, we would love to hear from you - please contact us firstname.lastname@example.org. You may choose to share your story anonymously as well by using the following contact form.
Stay tuned for a future article detailing the Adoption Process in Naija!