In Nigeria, custom and traditions have it that children who cannot be cared for by their parents are taken in by someone within their extended family. The idea of taking in, or adopting, a child that is not some how related to the family, is highly uncommon. The notion of adopting an un-related child that has special needs (for example those with physical or mental challenges or are ill with diseases such as sickle cell anaemia or HIV), or those who are orphaned because of a taboo (for instance, children born of incestuous relationships, or children who for a variety of reasons are identified as witches) – is unheard of.
Children who are abandoned most often find themselves in state or private orphanages. Most of these institutions do not have the manpower, expertise or resources to care for children who need extra or specialised care. In some states, like Lagos State, when an orphan reaches the age of 8 or 9, they are moved to state remand homes which are institutions for youth criminals and delinquents.
Every child is a gift. Ebunoluwa Foundation believes that social attitudes towards orphans and special needs children must change. It is not enough to allow them to just ‘survive’. If a loving, caring home can be found for children, then adoptions should not only be made possible, but should be encouraged, both within Nigeria and internationally.
The adoptions programme facilitated by Ebunoluwa Foundation is therefore vital for two main reasons:
Firstly, it greatly improves the lives of the individual children involved. In 2010, the foundation facilitated the adoption of 28 children with suitable families from the Netherlands, Sweden and New Zealand. Most of these adopted children have physical and medical challenges such as HIV, Hepatitis B, or they are deaf, have vision problems or sickle cell anaemia.
Secondly, the success of our programme is it impact on the attitudes towards vulnerable children in our society. Those who have been involved in the adoptions programme have seen the benefits to the individual children and have understood that each Nigerian child in indeed a gift. If given the opportunity, these children can lead productive and satisfying lives and grow to be positive contributors to society.
As part of our ongoing effort to monitor the well-being of the children that are adopted outside of Nigeria, Hakeem Ariori was in Sweden and the Netherlands between May and June 2010 and Aino Oni-Okpaku in October. Furthermore, government officials from Lagos, Ondo and Ekiti States also visited the children at various times during the year. All have been able to establish that the children are thriving in their new families.
Furthermore, through the process of working with the orphanages, other children are identified that benefit through the other programmes of Ebunoluwa foundation, such as the medical and scholarship activities.
Also, the adoption programme puts the foundation in touch with key federal and state government officials as well as in the wider social services including the orphanages and other related services such as the police and immigration services. Through its working relationships, the foundation is able to develop a targeted advocacy programme which aims to change legislation, practices and attitudes within the social welfare system.
Finally, the adoptions programme has provided a financial base from which the foundation can expand its services and outreach programmes. For each foreign adoption, the Foundation receives a service fee which supports the Foundation’s running costs. Many donations, from the adoption agencies and adopting families further assist the Foundation to continue its work.