Editorial: Don't punish adoptive parents
We reserve comment on the validity of Francine Belliveau's specific grievance with the Child Development Agency (CDA), but believe it is a good launching pad for a wider discussion on adoptions in Jamaica.
While Ms Belliveau's Canadian citizenship and residency may complicate the process, her complaints about the tortuous and convoluted procedure will resonate with scores, if not hundreds, of Jamaicans who have cited years-long waits to have a child of their own.
Ms Belliveau and her fiance have been trying, without success, to adopt a child from Jamaica since 2013. She said they were told that they were not high on the priority list because Jamaican citizens had been waiting to become adoptive parents from as far back as 2006.
Apparently, Ms Belliveau has fulfilled all requirements for pre-approval, but has been denied on two occasions.
"Anything that they requested, we provided in a timely manner, and what I mean is that the documents are there within two weeks, but then we don't hear from them for weeks and weeks and weeks," Ms Belliveau told The Sunday Gleaner.
Transfer of parental rights
Ms Belliveau has been bonding with a two-year-old baby whose mother reportedly wants a better family for the infant girl, but the child is now in state care.
We appreciate that the transfer of parental rights to a non-biological father and mother is a serious matter that should not be rushed or completed without rigorous checks and balances. Among the exhaustive considerations are the financial capability of the parents, their psychological capacity to deal with child-rearing, and whether the child would be a good fit within the adoptive family arrangement.
The CDA, and any other similar agency in other jurisdictions, would be wise to ensure that potential adoptees would not likely fall victim to sexual deviancy and other forms of child abuse, as well as not be taken as part of a ruse for human trafficking.
But even though there are significant security checks to hurdle, this newspaper believes that adoptions have become subject to bureaucratic constipation, that age-old governmental tradition grounded in the philosophy that efficiency and thoroughness are mutually exclusive.
To be clear, Ms Belliveau's disappointment is not unique. This newspaper has in the past revealed how the seemingly static procedures of the CDA have sapped the optimism of would-be parents and discouraged others from even trying. It's a long, thankless grind.
There are grave implications if this continues. First, children who grow up in stable, loving homes are less likely to become dysfunctional adults, thus contributing to a healthy, vibrant society. No matter how diligent and how well-intentioned the efforts at caring for children in homes or places of safety, the State is hardly the best option for super parent. Besides the fiscal constraints and closed culture of non-transparency, children are oftentimes neglected or rendered social misfits.
Second, when the official channels of adoption are bunged with gridlock and a web of bureaucracy, people will be more likely to engage in informal, privately organised guardianships, which put such children at greater risk of abuse and neglect because the State is ignorant of these ad hoc pacts. That's a consequence the Government must deter.
It cannot be right that aspiring Jamaican parents must wait five, six or seven years for an adoption to be completed.
Perhaps Ms Lisa Hanna, the minister of youth who has oversight of the CDA, could undertake a review of the adoption mechanism in order to establish more reasonable timelines during which children in state care could find a suitable home.
Be thorough and precise in overseeing the handover of parental rights. But for God sake, don't punish adoptive parents.