Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Changes to AAI's Ghana program

 Anita Gillispie, AAI's Ghana Coordinator
giving out a welcome bag from this child's new adoptive parents

Post submitted by Anita Gillispie with photos from her recent trip to Ghana

AAI established its Ghana program in April 2007 and has united over 60 children with adoptive families since that time. Although the program is small, we have one of the most active and respected Ghana programsin existence today. As Ghana adoptions become a more popular optionfor adoptive families, the authorities in Ghana have taken a hard look at the positives and negatives of the rising numbers. As a result, the program has undergone significant changes in the last few months.  I feel that the changes will, in the end, make for a more transparent adoption process.

meeting adoptive parents for the first time

In the future, one or both parents (depending on the region) will travel to Ghana in order to attend court. After court most families will then wait for the adoption decree to be issued and file immigration paperwork at the US Embassy before heading home. This "first trip" will usually take 2-3 weeks. During this trip parents will have a chance to experience the region of their child's birth and, in most cases, meet biological family members. As a result of this first trip families will have a much deeper understanding of the culture from which their children come.

We expect "2-year Interim Orders" to become more common in this program. Ghana sees a 2-year interim order as a full adoption for two years, but US authorities interpret this decree more like a guardianship. There are other countries (including Thailand) that give guardianship for a certain time-frame until a final order is issued, so this is not unknown in the world of adoption. After the two year interim period, a post adoption report is sent to Ghana. The report is submitted to the courts, which then issue a Full and Final Adoption Decree. Families need not travel back to Ghana at the end of the two years. Within the 2 year interim period most states will allow the adoption to be finalized in the child's home state.

The visa process for adopted children changed as of April 7th. Birth family members will be called into the embassy for interviews. AAI is extremely supportive of the new measures, in fact asking the embassy to consider new procedures that would prevent corruption in adoptions. Interviewing birth families will insure that the family understands what adoption is (permanent) and what it isn't (a long-term sponsorship). The consulate will further be able to verify that birth family members are who they say they are. In some cases DNA matching may be requested by the embassy. While these procedures add time to the over-all process, they also add peace of mind to adoptive families. Families will know without a shadow of a doubt that their children came to them out of true need for an adoptive family.

Lastly, as of April 1st Eban House closed its doors. Eban House was our children's home in Ghana, established in June 2007. Eban House was a safe haven for all of the children adopted through our program, and many who were able to be reunited with their biological families. However, Social Welfare made it clear to us recently that they do not want adoption agencies intimately involved in the running of a children's home (or large group foster home). Out of respect for the proper authorities in Ghana, we made the difficult decision to close Eban's door. Despite this loss of a dream, the closure of Eban House also means that we have new opportunities within Ghana to assist with family preservation. More adoption fees will now go towards projects that will keep families together. Children adopted through our program in the future will either live in small private foster homes or in their "home" orphanage.

Despite these changes to the program we are excited for the future! Ghana continues to be a wonderful option for families hoping to adopt children (single or sibling sets) ages 3 years and older. Families with 5 or fewer children qualify to adopt, as well as some larger families on a (very) case by case basis. Generally parents must be under 50 years to adopt, but when adopting much older or special needs children exceptions may be made. The process from referral to homecoming is generally 6-8 months. We are a very small program, which makes for intimate relationships between our adoptive families.  Our Ghana families are a tight-knit group that often make lifelong friendships during the adoption process!

For more information about AAI's Ghana program, please write to me at anita@adoptionadvocates.org. I look forward to hearing from you!

Anita Gillispie
AAI Ghana Program Coordinator


  1. Great article, Anita! I love being one of the 'close-knit' families in our Ghana group!