Easier road to adoptions - Amended laws and new board expected to speed up process
Planned amendments to the Adoption Act could speed up the process which has frustrated scores of persons who have sought to adopt children over the years.
Executive director of the Child Development Agency (CDA), Rosalee Gage-Grey, said the amendment of the act is among efforts being made to modernise the adoption services and improve service quality.
"We have always heard complaints about how long adoption takes, so we are looking at how we could be more efficient at how we handle the adoption process itself from we get an application, straight through to the child is delivered to you," Gage-Grey told The Sunday Gleaner.
"We are looking at the protocols and the services and how we deliver the services in a general sense," added Gage-Grey.
She said consultations have already taken place and the process has started that will allow for the act to become amended. Currently, there are more than 200 applicants waiting to adopt a child in Jamaica, but Gage-Grey noted that not many children are being put up for adoption.
CHILDREN IN STATE CARE
There are approximately 4,500 children in state care, and of this figure, about 800 are currently in the foster care system. The focus has been on getting these children reintegrated with family members, and Gage-Grey said that due to changes made a few years ago, it has become easier for individuals to adopt family members.
Gage-Grey noted that the focus is now on getting to a place where adoptions can be finalised within six months to a year. But she said that part of the challenge has been getting consent from the parents of children in state care for them to be put up for adoption.
If the parents cannot be located and efforts to find them are unsuccessful, then their rights would need to be dispensed through the courts.
DISPENSING THE RIGHTS OF A PARENT
"To dispense of the rights of a parent is not an easy decision and the judge doesn't just do it immediately, you have to have good reasons for that to happen; very good reasons for that to happen," said Gage-Grey.
The CDA head comments came hours before State Minister in the Ministry of Education Floyd Green announced that a new Adoption Board had been appointed and tasked with streamlining and increasing the efficiency of identifying the children fit for adoption and placing them with families who are suitable.
"The (law) will also have to be reframed and modernised to ensure that at the end of the day it is the interest of the child that is foremost," said Green during his presentation in Sectoral Debate.
According to the 2015 Jamaica Economic and Social Survey, of the 479 children who have been in the foster care system for more than two years, 329 were able to matriculate out of the system through adoption and family reintegration while the remaining 150 were still in foster care at the end of the year.