Thursday 13 December 2018

Embracing Adoption

Adoption within the African community is not new. People have adopted this practice for centuries in the form of taking care of a relative, assisting a Sister, Brother, Cousin, etc. However, Africans never gave it a label as the 'Adoptee' is seen as a member of the family and no one would have known any different if the 'Adopter' or Adoptive Parent(s) never mentioned the relationship to anyone. However, it is the Western World that has labelled such arrangement as 'Adoption'. The reason is because in the Western World, proper records are kept and so in case of any medical condition in future, the appropriate treatment would be given. More importantly, should the Adopted child wish to trace his or her birth parents, it will be very easy to do so.

With Africans, it is a totally different perception because the mind has been conditioned that an African Woman must and should be able to have biological children. When there is delayed parenthood, the in-laws begin to put pressure on the couple and for the weak-minded, they can do the unthinkable. Some lose their confidence, whilst others fall into depression - more so when the husband decides to have children out of wedlock or marries another wife. The saddest aspect is that in some parts of the African continent, there is a growing trend of 'Baby Factories' - where 16 - 18 year old girls or even younger, are impregnated by men in their 30s - just for women rich enough to buy the babies and present to unsuspecting family members, and unknown to their husbands, that they have been delivered of a baby in a far away 'hospital'. For those brave enough to lie about the 'bought' babies, they live with the lie for a very long time until a medical situation occurs which necessitates blood transfusion or when the family decides to migrate from Africa and DNA is required. The pressure on the woman is even greater when religious organisations in particular, the churches begin to preach - "there shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land: the number of thy days I will fulfil" (Exodus 23:26). 

Some women are made to feel that they lack enough faith to believe that God will answer their prayers. They therefore, refuse to adopt and decide to 'wait upon the Lord' for several decades or for ever without having their biological children. People should be reminded that the 'barrenness' being referred to could also mean financial or marital lack and other forms of activities one ought to achieve.

It would help if Clerics, as part of their 'Corporate Social Responsibility', lead by example by adopting children (particularly preachers who have delayed parenthood) and preach about the unconditional love of caring for another human being. To treat the adopted child/children as their own flesh and blood - and not as domestic servants. Surely, then, the world would be a better place for all. Those in the public eye perceived as role models and who were adopted, could, as part of their 'Individual Social Responsibility' help change mindsets, by making public declaration of their own adoption. Several thousands, if not millions of babies' lives have been robbed of better future due to the fact that they were abandoned and not adopted.

It has to be noted that some Orphanages and Foundations which take care of children, have been established by several people who can afford to do so. The mindsets seem to be changing about adoption. It is a gradual process for people to embrace adoption. Recognised adoption agencies need to publicise adoption and provide the necessary support to those willing to adopt. There is a misconception that adoption is only for people who have no children. People who already have biological children can also adopt, including lone parents. What is paramount is the AGAPE LOVE (Greco-Christian terminology which means the love that 'embraces a universal, unconditional love that transcends and persists regardless of circumstance. for another human being'). In this season of good tidings, if convenient for you, be part of this humanitarian belief system. You do not have to be a global philanthropist before you make your own contribution to the enrichment of the human race.

If you feel touched by this Article, please visit or contact us at for more information.

Tuesday 14 August 2012


·        To create awareness about Adoption and Fostering
·        To know the differences between Fostering & Adoption.
·        To highlight the benefits of Adoption & Fostering.
·        To promote adoption within the Afro-Caribbean Community.
·        To provide guidance and support for Prospective and/or Adoptive Parents.
·        To promote multi-cultural adoption.
·        To change mindset that you have to be married to be an Adoptive or Foster Parent.
·        To break the myth that you can only adopt/foster a child if you are childless.

·        Be more informed about various options in Adoption.
·        To realise mutual benefits that could be derived by the adopted child and adoptive parent.
·        To realise the need for and how to access relevant and appropriate level of support.
·        Realise that inability to conceive does not prevent you from giving unconditional love to   
           another person’s child.

·        Both male and female, irrespective of marital status and ethnic background.
·        Age Group – 18 years and above
·        All Nationalities


Adoption - is a way of providing a new family for children who cannot be brought up by their own parents.

l  It is a legal procedure in which all the parental responsibility is transferred to the Adoptive Parents or Adopters.
l  Once an adoption order has been granted, it cannot be reversed except in extremely rare circumstances (which to date has never been done in the United Kingdom).
l An Adopted Child loses all the legal ties with their first mother and father (the ‘birth parents’) and becomes a full member of the new family, usually taking the family’s name.
l Adoption is permanent and a new birth certificate for the child is issued from the Adopted Children Register.

Fostering – usually a temporary arrangement. This long term or ‘permanent’ fostering cannot provide the same legal security as adoption for either the child or the foster family.
l  Foster Carers share the responsibility for the child with a local authority and/or the child’s birth parents.

Who can Adopt or Foster?

There are no set rules regarding skills and qualities required to adopt or foster a child or group of siblings, provided you:
l  are willing to learn and seek support
l  have space in your home
l  can value the child’s past experiences
l  like children and are able to communicate and try to understand them
l  patient, sensitive, flexible, adaptable, emotionally resilient, have lots of energy and a sense of humour, can remain committed t the child through varying challenging times
l  ideally have some experiences of caring for children
v  Support and training are provided throughout the assessment process to prepare for the life-changing experience.
Once adopted, the religion of the child would no longer be paramount according to the Open Neon Sign.  Provided the Adoptive Parents meet all the needs of a family, the child would have to imbibe the same religion as his or her adoptive parents.  However, if the adoptive parents are flexible, the child could practice any religion.

Summary of Discussions
The event took place on Friday 5 July 2012 at the Westminster City Hall in Victoria, London. In attendance was a representative of the British Association of Adoption & Fostering (BAAF) - a Consultant on Private Fostering & Black Minority Ethnic Issues.

Guests also included four African Adoptive Parents who shared their personal and emotional stories.
In the first segment of the programme, in order to assess level of understanding of the attendees, there was a brain-storming session on the differences between Adoption and Fostering.

 Four families shared their emotional stories in pursuit of having children they can love.

Case Study 1
A Nigerian Woman in her late 40s based in the United Kingdom and married for 22 years with no children.  After a lot of soul-searching, she decided to opt for adoption.  During her very trying period, was advised by an Uncle to have children outside the marriage.  She said she refused as she felt it was the greatest betrayal.  With her Mother’s support, she adopted an abandoned girl of one day old from the Western part of Nigeria.  The inter-country adoption process which entailed a rigorous assessment of the couple, took 9 months.  This involved the couple travelling to Nigeria to meet officials of the Adoption Centre.  The Woman said having a child she could call her own was worth all the pain she had endured and would have opted for adoption much earlier, if she had known about the different options. However, she said she believed that the time was right to make such life-changing decision. Their daughter is now 3 years old.

Case Study 2
A Nigerian Man in his early 50s based in the United Kingdom was married for over 15 years with no children.  His wife had a medical problem and had suffered two miscarriages.  However, despite numerous suggestions from family and friends to have children with another woman outside wedlock, he refused and remained faithful to his wife.  He said he considered surrogacy but his wife refused.  He said he was encouraged by his brother-in-law whose first child was adopted before he and his wife conceived naturally.  The Nigerian man and his wife later adopted a two year old Ugandan boy whose mother could no longer take care of him in the United Kingdom.  Four years later, the couple conceived naturally and had their first child, followed by another the following year.  The adopted boy is now 8 years old and very much loved by the couple as their two other natural children.  The couple remains in contact with the natural mother of their adopted son, through the ‘Letter Box Contact’ – a process which involves writing letters and sending photographs of the child to his mother.  The man is a role model for the Afro-Caribbean Community, a member of the Croydon Adoption Panel and he campaigns for the Adoption of abandoned children in the United Kingdom – whom he calls the “Voiceless Children”.  He has been on several Talk Shows and Seminars both in the United Kingdom and Nigeria.  He was recently invited to Number 10 Downing Street (the official residence of the British Prime Minister) for a meeting on Adoption.
 Case Study 3
A Ghanaian Woman in her early 50s based in the United Kingdom, married for 24 years.   She had conceived seven times through IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) but on each occasion, had still births.  The marriage broke up due to her ‘obsession to have children’ of her own.  She remarried but still had no children and decided to adopt a child from Ghana through a friend who had an NGO (non-governmental organisation) for abandoned children.  She was introduced to an abandoned girl aged 3 months old.  The woman had to undergo laborious assessment which lasted 7 months.  As the child was abandoned, she also had to endure intensive medical examination to rule out any genetic disorder.  The child was eventually adopted at 2 years old.  The woman said after her adoption, her brother was also encouraged to adopt children.  The adopted child is now 8 years old and waiting to join her adopted mother in the United Kingdom.  In the interim, the Ghanaian travels regularly to see her daughter.

Case Study 4
A Nigerian Man in his early 50s who discovered at the age of 16 that the woman whom he thought was his natural sister (aged 26 at the time) was actually adopted.  The astonishing discovery was when the sister was getting married and his parents declared that since her father was still alive, he would have to be notified of the impending marriage (of his daughter).  The Nigerian man said it was then revealed that his sister’s mother, a relation of the family, died shortly after giving birth to her and that as his parents were newly wed, they decided accept her as their own child.  His parents later went on to have several natural children together.  The adopted sister who is now in her 60s also has natural children of her own.
 The mindsets of Africans would need to change, especially since it has always been the general belief that in the case of infertility, the woman is the one with the problem.  Recent surveys have indicated that a large percentage of men also have problems conceiving due to either low sperm count or other medical problem, which at times, go undetected (due to denials from men that they might have problems).
African men would, in pursuit of having children,  continue to marry different women so as to prove their masculinity as some erroneously  perceive women as ‘failures’ if they could not conceive.  The irony is that both parties might not have any medical problem, yet unable to conceive which could just simply mean that they are medically incompatible.  Therefore, it is imperative that couples or prospective parents understand the reason why they are opting for either adoption or fostering and are prepared to give unconditional love to the adopted or fostered child.
There is an urgent need for people, particularly the Afro-Caribbean and Asian Communities to consider adoption or fostering.  There are so many children waiting on the Adoption Register who desperately need to be in a loving family environment.
The disadvantaged groups are Black boys who wait the longest on the Adoption Register.  Unfortunately, as the children become older, it becomes more difficult to place them with adoptive families.

Friday 22 June 2012

Relationship - Part 2

A.     Conflict Management / Tolerance Level
Conflict was defined as dispute between parties – where communication breaks down or is not effectively channeled.  It was noted that couples failed to realise that the ways in which matters are handled in Africa, with access to domestic staff tasked with different chores, cannot generally be replicated in the Diaspora, except for a few lucky ones with enormous wealth who can afford domestic staff. In the Western world, most people would have to do almost everything by themselves.  There was the unanimous belief that not changing the mindset would lead an African man living in the Western world to make several seemingly unreasonable demands on the woman – a situation which evidently would lead to irreconcilable differences.  Another perspective was that if personal conflicts (as the mind has different facets of which emotion is one) have not been appropriately resolved, such unresolved issues would ultimately have negative impact on the relationship.   

It was observed that the African culture is gradually being eroded by the Western culture. In the African culture, the involvement of both families provides an avenue for conflict resolution, where the ‘head of the family’ of either party would be consulted for advice and adjudication.  The Jewish and Asian communities were cited as examples of cultures where, irrespective of their place of residence, try to maintain their sense of cultural identity and community spirit. A significant point highlighted was the fact that Africans who seek advice from Pastors, fail to realise that the Biblical principles quoted in resolving disputes were based on the Jewish culture – in which some aspects were irrelevant to the African culture.

B.   Anger Management
Anger was said to be the pinnacle of one’s emotion. To avoid a situation where one loses control, the other party in the relationship must endeavour to know the tell-tale signs.  Furthermore, the angry person must be aware when he or she was about to lose control. It was affirmed that couples should know how to complement each other – their likes and dislikes, personalities in terms of one being an extrovert and the other probably, an introvert.  Therefore, it is imperative to strike a balance in order to ensure that the relationship works. There was the general belief that the best approach to deal with anger was to remain calm and ‘talk to one’s inner self’.

C.   Coping with Loneliness within and outside a Relationship
Learning to live with loneliness was said to be crucial to one’s mental state of mind.  Women are believed to struggle with this aspect, even whilst in a relationship.  In a marriage, some women are said to be ‘business widows’ where the husbands are always away from home on  business trips, leaving their wives for lengthy periods of time.  The wives, especially the homely type, could find it extremely difficult to cope with the demands of maintaining a family by themselves (even when money was not a problem).  Ironically, few men were said to be ‘business widowers’ as they married women who were top professionals whose job responsibilities involved a lot of travelling, leaving the husbands to take care of the home.

Another dimension was that even though some people were alone, they were not lonely, as they enjoyed their solitude.  An individual must be able to ascertain their individuality – a state of ‘finding oneself’.  Some people were said to seek company of others because they are not at peace with themselves.   It was expressed that having a companion was not a guarantee for lifelong happiness, unless both parties were able to add value to each other’s life.  Otherwise, one party would be seen as a parasite or liability.

Suggested ways of coping with loneliness –

·       Networking – attending relevant functions, parties, etc.  so as to meet people;
·       Be active, volunteer for different charities;
·       Perform physical and mental exercises – go to the gym, read motivational books;
·       Get involved in local community projects;
·       Go on holiday;
·       Fulfil a passion such as writing, studying, painting, photography, etc.;
·       Join a social network (for all the right reasons);
·       Recreate – do something else.  Avoid boredom or routine living.

D. Warning Signals / Signs of Cry for help
Based on his professional experiences, the Psychiatrist advised that warning signals should be taken seriously to prevent someone from committing suicide.  He also suggested that people should be tactful when giving advice to those going through a traumatic period.  He recommended that one should be mindful of negative words such as ‘come on, get on with it’, ‘you are not the only one’, ‘pull yourself together’.  These words were said to be judgmental and depict the addressee as a ‘weakling’ who could not cope with the pressures of life. He emphasised the need to empathise with people and endeavour to seek help on their behalf. 

He further explained that when an individual use words like ‘what is the point in living?’, ‘I am fed up with everything!’, ‘why is it only me going through these problems?’, ‘I need to sort my life out now’, I can’t go on’, any interested party should not just listen, but act quickly as the individual under stress could be heading for a total mental breakdown, or worse, suicide.

Examples of Warning signs:

·         Self-neglect (unkempt appearance);
·         Constant crying or tearfulness;
·         Poor concentration;
·         Excessive drinking or eating;
·         Diminished / excessive sleep;
·         Physical tell tale signs (e.g. black eyes);
·         Feeling melancholic all the time (hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness);
·         ‘Anhedonia’ – reduced ability/complete inability to enjoy things or experience pleasure,   particularly as regards activities that an individual previously enjoyed;
·         De-motivation;
·         Fluctuation in eating habits;
·         Craving for sugary drinks;
·         Tiredness;
·         Absent-mindedness.

E.   Moving On
‘Moving on’ was said to be a cliché - an expression which could easily be misconstrued. In Relationship Part 1, ‘Moving on’ was defined as change in life-style (e.g. becoming more outgoing), location, career, change of wardrobe & hairstyle, and possibly, re-marriage. 

A guest, having been married four times, unequivocally stated that the most important aspect was to find out exactly what an individual was ‘moving on’ from?  He emphasised that without self-analysis and a real understanding of the cause of the unpleasant episode, the individual might just have implemented a superficial and temporary measure.  The psychological aspect, which is the mindset, would have to change so as not to repeat the mistake of the past.  An expert on Female Mutilation Genitalia (FMG) declared that it was a therapeutic exercise to want to change or explore other areas of one’s life which might have been dormant.

F.   Basis of a Good Relationship
·         Shared goal and agreement of what the relationship is about, in order to guard against false or unrealistic expectations;
·         Couple to know themselves (the enabling objective of coming together in the first place);
·         Not taking each other for granted;
·         Mutual trust and respect;
·         Open-mindedness;
·         Effective communication - no assumption of each other’s feelings or misconception of what was, or should have been, said.

G. Support Groups
It was the general belief that majority of the Support Groups based in the United Kingdom are not equipped to address matters specific to the Africans in Diaspora. Some Support Groups have since realised this deficiency and a representative from the Relate North West London Counselling Service specifically stated that they were currently in the process of revising their approach in order to accommodate aspects of the African culture, with a view to providing  the appropriate service to the African ethnic communities.

Useful Support Groups:

·         Family members (elderly role models usually respected by all);
·         Trusted Friends;
·         Local Faith Groups (Church, Mosque etc.) – without being judgemental and properly trained in Counselling;
·         Relate*;
·         GP;
·         Samaritans*
·         Heart 2 Heart*.

*amongst numerous Professional Support Groups based in the United Kingdom

The internet was said to be a good source of information on several Support Groups focused on specific areas of relationships.

Points to Note:

·         Effective communication is paramount in any relationship.

·         Mindset needs to be reviewed as life is dynamic.

·         Parties in the relationship should be prepared to adapt and be proactive in sustaining the relationship.

·         Avoid any threat of violence.

·         African Diaspora couples should learn how to manage the African and Western cultures effectively.

·         Do not take each other for granted, and work to understand your partner better.

·         When issues arise, it is best to deal with it decisively, immediately, and amicably.

·         Learn to control your anger and know your tolerance level.

·         Be engaged in hobbies of interest to you.

·         Find your own happiness within and outside of a relationship.

·         Be patient with your partner in any conflict situation, and work to understand his or her views.

·         Before committing to a relationship, it is imperative to understand your partner enough to feel that the relationship has a good chance of success.

·         Changing aspects of one’s life must have a valid reason and be mutually beneficial.

·         A cry for help should not be seen as a weakness.  Different people with different thresholds.

·         Do not be judgmental about people’s challenges.  Empathise and do not criticise.

·         Endeavour to discuss problems with trusted friends, family members and external Support Groups.

·         Do not let mistakes of the past overwhelm you; use them as lessons learned in ‘moving on’.

·         Know the reason for ‘moving on’ and remain focused on achieving your objectives.

·         Be honest with yourself and know what you want out of life.