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Adoption Committee officially sworn in

Adoption Committee officially sworn in

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Persons hoping to adopt Vincentian children and families with pending adoptions can look forward to the adoption process moving forward, as last week, the members of the Adoption Committee/Board took the oath of secrecy.

The swearing in of the Adoption Committee comes after 15 months of stalled adoptions, which left a number of families, including persons residing overseas, frustrated and separated from their children.

The new Adoption Committee was sworn in on Friday, November 4 in the presence of, and at the office of Minister of National Mobilization with responsibility for Social Development, the Family, Gender and Youth Affairs Frederick Stephenson.{{more}}

Taking the oath of secrecy were the director and chairperson of the Adoption Committee Anastasia Harry; Marisa Burke (director of Social Services), Polly Oliver (director of Gender Affairs), Dr Jozelle Miller (representative from the Ministry of Health), Gwenneth Cambridge (representative from the Ministry of Education), Major Pierre Antoine of the Salvation Army and secretary of the committee Kemmy Johnson.

Two members of the committee, lawyer Kezron Walters and Sister Nyra Anne Pajotte of the St Benedict’s Day Nursery, were not able to take the oath on that day and are expected to do so soon.

According to Stephenson, now that the committee is in place, he is expecting that they will meet at the earliest possible time to move pending adoptions forward, as there are quite a number of applications awaiting approval. These applications either have to go before the High Court or to the Family Court, once they are approved by the Adoption Committee.

The Minister said that the adoption process was stalled here as the Government sought to put everything in place and to make sure all adoptions were done properly.

He said that as a sovereign nation, this country has to do all in its power to make sure that the people who are adopting our children are suitable parents and that we know where our children are going, as we do not want to be reported under the Trafficking in Persons Act.

“We had to do new regulations to make it compatible and these things were timely…the Act is not too late…we had to be careful so that as a state, when we send our children out we are not sanctioned as if we are involved in the trafficking of persons. We had to be careful and put all practices and procedures in place,” stressed Stephenson.

He noted that before the committee was sworn in, a number of things changed, including the fact that the Family Court can now hear adoptions. In the past, only the High Court could have dealt with adoptions and the Minister is hoping that the 10 pending adoptions can be sorted by Christmas, but stressed that this depends on the work load of the courts.

The Adoption Committee is set up to do, among other things: determine the manner in which a child is selected for adoption; to establish guidelines for the conduct of negotiations entered into by the adoption committee with a parent who wishes to have their child selected by the adoption committee to be placed for adoption; to receive applications and do assessments for placement; to assess the suitability of a person to adopt a child; to establish and maintain an adoption list; to make arrangement for and in relation to the placement of a child; to take appropriate measures at all times to ensure confidentiality of the records of a child, the natural parents of a child and the adoptive parent of a child; and to perform other functions that may be necessary to carry out the provisions as may be determined by the Minister.

Earlier this month, two families from the United States (US) complained to the media there and in SVG that the adoption process here had been stalled for too long and that the wait was creating emotional and financial strain.

Before adoptions can take place both locally and internationally, a number of things have to be done. Forms have to be filled out and reporting and investigations (background checks and due diligence) have to be done through a reputable adoption agency. Even after the adoptions, reports have to be sent about the child’s progress.

“We have to make sure that the chid is not in any way disadvantaged,” said Stephenson, stressing that the interest of the child is the most important thing.(LC)

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