What is adoption?

In its ordinary meaning, the word adoption can be defined as choosing to take something as your own. The legal definition as related to family law, is the vesting of a child’s welfare, care and maintenance on a person(s) other than the child’s biological parents who are willing and capable of the same called a Foster Parent.

Laws governing The Adoption process in Tanzania

In The United Republic of Tanzania, the adoption of a child is governed by The Law of The Child Act, 2009.  This is a principal legislation laying foundation for the consolidation and reform for all laws providing for the rights, welfare, maintenance and protection of children.

Types of Adoption

There are many types of adoption including but not limited to domestic infant, waiting child, international independent, open adoption, closed adoption and private and public agency. In the United Republic of Tanzania, The Law of the Child Act accounts for two types of adoption namely open and foster adoption. Foster adoption is applied for in the High court of Tanzania. A child is put under a foster home and the foster parent assumes all parental responsibility over the adopted child.

Open adoption on the other hand, is where a child is adopted by their relative whose application for adoption order is done in the Resident Magistrate Court or in the District Court. In both cases the Court of law issues an adoption order that warrants the applicant to exercise parentage on the adopted child.

In certain situations, parents may put up their children to be eligible for adoption for the promise of better parentage of the child than they feel could be offered by them.

Who can be adopted?

In Tanzania, a child is the person eligible for adoption. The Law of the child Act provides that a child is a person below the age of 18.


Who can adopt?

In Tanzania, the law provides in Section 56 of the Law of the Child Act for the requirements to be met by a person in order to qualify to be an adoptive parent. These include; that the applicant should be 25 years and above and must be at least 21 years older than the adopted child, that the applicant is a relative of the child and is above the age of 25, that there is consent from the other spouse incase the applicant is married and that if the applicant is a single woman they must be a Tanzanian citizen an d if it is a single male the adopted child must be his son or where the court is satisfied that it is in the child’s best interest.

The law also requires for the applicant and the adopted child to reside in Tanzania unless the applicant is a Tanzanian citizen residing abroad. It also requires the child to have been in continuous care of the applicant for at least 6 months preceding the date of the application for adoption.

Can a non-citizen adopt a child in Tanzania?

For a non-citizen to adopt a child in Tanzania, they must have been a resident in Tanzania for at least three consecutive years. The foreign applicant must also come from a country whose legal regime recognizes the Tanzanian adoption order.


The Adoption Procedure

The Procedure governing the adoption of a child begins by an application to the Commissioner for social welfare who forwards the application to the District Social Welfare Office. The applicant is then required to fill an application to foster the child form. The applicant will be expected to give the District social welfare office three referees who will be interviewed by a social welfare officer in order to ascertain the eligibility of the Applicant.

The following step in the adoption Procedure is for a social welfare officer to conduct a home study by performing a number of interviews to assess the prospective living conditions of the child. Where the Social welfare officer is satisfied with the inquiry made, a recommendation to the commissioner for social welfare will be made and an eligible child will be matched to the applicant(s). Following this, the social welfare officer will work with the police department to identify whether there are any relatives claiming tenure over the child. If there are any, consent should be sought for the child to be adopted.  Then the police department issues a Certificate of abandonment which is effective to terminate the rights of the former relatives on the child.

The Child will then be put into foster care for a period not less than three months where there will be continual supervision by the social welfare officer. When all requirements are adequately met, a petition for adoption will be lodged in order to obtain an adoption order from The High Court of Tanzania. There also has to be obtained an adoption certificate for the adopted child.

Furthermore, an adoption order must be registered by the Registrar-General who makes an entry in the Adopted Child Register. The adopted Child Register contains all particulars of the adoption.

The consequences of adoption

The adoption process confers all rights of the adopted child from the biological parents or relatives to the foster parent who assumes all responsibility over the adopted child. If the applicants are husband and wife, they shall assume on the adopted child responsibilities such as those of a natural parent including but not limited to custody, maintenance and education as the parent of the child. Nevertheless, an adopted child shall not be a legal heir to their biological parent’s estate where the process of adoption is final.

Once a child is adopted, they become eligible for inheritance and enjoyment of the estate of their foster parents. The law provides that when an adoptive parent dies, the estate of the deceased shall be bequeathed in the natural order as though the adopted child were the natural parent.

The law further provides that, an adopted child should be free, and not prohibited, to profess and worship in accordance with his or her birth religion the contravention of which renders it an offence.

However, in case the adoptive parent lives in accordance to customary law, the adopted child shall be subject to that such law. The adoptive parent shall also be expected to adhere to the rights, duties, obligations and liabilities in care and maintenance of the child conferred under the customary law.

Disclosure of Adoption to the Adopted Child

The duty to disclose to the child the knowledge of his/her being adopted is vested on the adoptive parent. The fact of the child being adopted should only be passed if it is proven to be in the best interest of the child and if the child is fourteen years and above.