Everything else.. The Ins and Outs of Adoption: A Tribute to Adoptive Mothers

The Ins and Outs of Adoption: A Tribute to Adoptive Mothers

2017 May 13

CALLING ALL MOTHERS!

Motherhood Inc. is now hiring for the position of “Amma.” Please note that chosen candidates must work 24-hour shifts every day, with no vacation days. There will be no prospects of promotions, no salary increments, and no salary, period. Contract period is one lifetime.

Candidates must possess the ability to multi task, make broccoli seem like the most delicious food on the planet, and fashion science projects overnight on short notice. Please be aware that you will also be expected to serve as a janitor and PS (Poop-Scooper), so this job is not for the faint of heart.

Benefits of the job include hugs, kisses, and an extra dose of love on Mothers’ Day.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE 9-MONTH PROBATION PERIOD IS OPTIONAL, AND THEREFORE, NOT A DECIDING FACTOR IN THE SELECTION PROCESS FOR THE POST OF AMMA.

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Mothers’ Day is a day of home-made cards, hand-made picture frames and pancakes. It’s a day to celebrate the sacrifices made, the effort put in, and love shown by mothers around the world for the wellbeing and happiness of their children. But for mothers with adopted children, it may not be the Hallmark holiday it’s cracked up to be. For them, it can be a bittersweet day where they celebrate being a guardian, all the while painfully remembering that they didn’t actually give birth to their child.

But rest assured, adoptive moms, this does NOT make you any less of a mother. So in honour of all the adoptive mommies out there, this Mothers’ Day article will shed light on the ins and outs of child adoption.

Adoption is defined as the legal process of becoming a non-biological parent. Adopting a child is a rigorous, time-consuming process which must be conducted before the law. But it’s worth the arduousness because, in the end, a helpless child will be given a family, a home, and a future. The decision to adopt, however, is a life-changing decision that will affect you, your family and the adopted child, and therefore must not be rushed or taken lightly.

Domestic adoption

Under the Adoption of Children Ordinance of Sri Lanka, the following criteria must be fulfilled for a successful adoption:

  • Adoptee must be 14 years of age or less.
  • Applicant must be over 25 years of age.
  • The age gap between the applicant and adoptee must be a minimum of 21 years (unless the adoptee is a descendent of the applicant, applicant’s brother or sister, or applicant’s married partner).
  • Adoptee must give consent if he/she is over 10 years of age.

Process of adoption

  1. The applicant, known as the “petitioner”, must first and foremost file a petition with the District Court.
  2. The District Court will then issue a notice to the Registrar General’s Department.
  3. The Department of Probation and Child Care Services (DPCCS) will then dispatch a Probation Officer to conduct background checks on the petitioner and the birth parents, after which, the Probation Officer will submit a report of their findings to the District Court.
  4. The District Court will then call for an inquiry, where all the evidence including affidavits, income statements and the petitioner’s marriage certificate will be reviewed. The petitioning couple, the child to be adopted, and the birth parents or guardian must be present at the inquiry.
  5. The Court will then issue an order granting physical and legal custody of the child.
  6. Finally, the Registrar General will issue a new birth certificate for the adopted child.

Once the adoption process is successfully concluded, the adoptee is seen as the applicant’s “natural child” before the law. This has several implications. First, the birth parents will have no say in the child’s life henceforth. Second, under the law of succession, the child will lose all claims to the birth parents’ property, and will instead inherit a rightful claim to the adopted parents’ property.

International adoption

Sri Lanka is party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption. This Convention dictates that a child should be put up for inter-country adoption ONLY if he/she cannot be placed in the care of a guardian in his/her country of origin. Accordingly, when foreign nationals apply to adopt from Sri Lanka, those with dual citizenship or a Sri Lankan background will be given priority.

Under the guidelines of the Hague Convention, foreign nationals seeking to adopt from Sri Lanka must fulfil several additional requirements:

  • A social report must be submitted to the District Court through the relevant embassy.
  • Applicant must be married (no length stipulated).
  • Applicants with up to two children may apply; however, preference will be given to couples with no children.
  • There is no specific income requirement; however, the financial position of the prospective adoptive family will be assessed by the DPCSS.
  • A criminal record check must be provided.
  • Both the prospective adoptive parents must be present at the District Court of Sri Lanka for court proceedings and to accept placement of the child.

Although several amendments were made to the Adoption of Children Ordinance since its introduction, the Ordinance still has many loopholes and discrepancies. Yet another revision may be necessary in order to patch up the discrepancies and keep up with the changes and developments in the modern world.

Legal egalitarianism

Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.” Article 12 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka is also dedicated to the Right to Equality. However, certain special laws in place in Sri Lanka override the common law, thus disrupting the policy of equality before the law.

For example, if both the applicant and the adopted child are governed by Kandyan Law, the adopted child will lay claim to both his/her birth parents’ property and adoptive parents’ property. Contrastingly, if a Muslim applicant adopts a child, the child does not inherit the adoptive parents’ property as Muslim Law does not recognise shifting of parenthood, and the child simultaneously loses claim to the birth parents’ property as well under common law. Whilst the former is advantageous to the adopted child, the latter puts the child’s future at risk.

When inquired about this from Attorney-at-Law, Mr Heshan Mamuhewa, he expressed his opinion as follows:

“Special laws arose as a result of the variance of cultures in the past, but measures must be taken to unite everyone under a common law. To change the law in such a way, the very constitution of Sri Lanka must be changed. But those with the power to do so are reluctant to change the constitution. This is mainly due to their desire to continue enjoying the rights already extended to them.”

Two-parent guardianship: a thing of the past?

“In the past, the unmarried weren’t allowed to adopt as the male figure was always the breadwinner of the family, while the uneducated, unemployed female was responsible for all the household work. This dynamic required a two-parent guardianship for the healthy upbringing of a child. However, in the modern day and age, both males and females are equally educated and employed, and therefore capable of bringing up a child independently without a spouse. Therefore, it is my opinion that the law must be revised in order to grant unmarried individuals the right to adopt, given that they fulfil the relevant requirements.”

Mr Mamuhewa stated thus when asked for his opinion on the law preventing unmarried individuals from adopting children.

Gay parents or good parents

Another issue arises in the case of same-sex couples. Although in theory, the laws of Sri Lanka do not explicitly forbid a same-sex couple (foreign, as same-sex union is not legal in Sri Lanka) from adopting a child, in practice such applicants will not qualify, as Sri Lanka does not recognise homosexuality, and deems it “illegal”.

Adoption: by choice or lack thereof?

There is a theory that the laws of Sri Lanka do not allow couples with the capability to conceive a child of their own to adopt a child by choice. Mr Mamuhewa confirmed that this was, in fact, a myth, and added that he himself had represented cases where couples adopted not due to their inability to conceive but rather of their own volition, often with the pure intention of giving a helpless child a new home.

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There is a stigma surrounding adoption that puts adoptive parents in a one-down position in comparison with biological parents. Well, ladies and gentlemen living under a rock, this is the 21st century. A black president was voted into office in the United States of America, mobile phones and computers are ‘smart’, probably smarter than you are, and nobody watches TV on a TV anymore. In such a day and age, this outdated stigma about adoption is an obvious anachronism, one that must be banished immediately. It’s as incongruous as carrying a giant radio around to listen to music on the go when you could just use your phone or an iPod.

Biology and genetics are not the defining factors of motherhood. What defines a mother has more to do with nurture, rather than nature. She’s the person who stays up with you when you’re sick, the person who comforts you when you’re crying, and the person that dedicates her life to giving you a better life than hers. To love and care for an adopted child as if they were your own, to give them a home and a future; that’s one of the most altruistic and noble gestures a woman can make. This acclamation goes out to all those wonderful adoptive moms out there: your unwavering selflessness is appreciated and admired. Happy mothers’ day.

 

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