Adoption Process in Zambia

We found the adoption process in Zambia quite different from other places we have heard of. I decided to blog about our personal experience for those interested to know how it works.

Step 1: Submitting an Application

The first step in the adoption process is submitting an adoption application to the District of Social Welfare (DSW). Here is where I noticed the first difference. In Zambia, there are no adoption agencies or social workers to facilitate private adoption. All adoptions go directly through the DSW government office. We collected a checklist from DSW that guided us on the requirements and documents that must accompany our application letter. Some of the requirements include medical checks and police clearance.

Step 2: Home Study

Once we collected all our documents, we submitted it all to DSW along with our application letter. At this point a home study is done. This entails someone from the government office or from the Christian Alliance for Children in Zambia (CACZ) coming to visit your home. During our home study they interviewed everyone who lives in the home. The questions are personal and go deep into your history. They want to see that you are who you say you are. Furthermore, they took a look around our house. It is important to them that your home has enough space and there isn’t anything that could be harmful to a child.

Step 3: Wait Patiently to be Matched

With the home study done we just had to wait patiently for them to match us with a child. At this stage you are at the mercy of those working at the DSW. You aren’t notified that your application is approved, but they may call you if something is missing or incomplete in your application. Preparing for a child is impossible because there is still so much that unknown. You don’t know the age or gender of the child and you are not sure when the call will come. But then we got that special call…

In that moment our whole world changed! The social worker said, “We have a baby boy for you. Please come to the DSW office to collect your letter.” I was so excited I didn’t even think to ask about the age of the boy. We rushed over as soon as possible to pick up our letter. (Read about Michael’s personal experience on his blog)

Step 4: The Bonding Stage

The letter we received gave us the age and the name of the child as well as where the child is being kept. With letter in hand, we went straight to the child care facility to meet our son. This was the start of the most exciting and most difficult time of our lives – the bonding stage. (This is the second difference I noticed about Zambia’s adoption process.)

The bonding stage is said to take up to 3 months. During this time we are allowed to visit our child at the institution as often as we like and for as long as we like, but we can’t take him home yet. It is by far the hardest part of this journey! At first I didn’t understand why this stage was needed but once I saw how the babies interact and love their carers, I realised that this stage was protecting these precious little babies from further trauma. It would be such a shock to suddenly be separated from carers you know and love to go to a place that was strange with people you don’t know. They are only doing what is in the best interest of the child.

We have been visiting our boy in the child care facility twice a day since the day we were matched. We bath and feed him and hopefully put him to sleep before we have to leave him there. Fortunately for us, the child care facility where our boy is kept isn’t too far from our home and we have a car. I don’t know how those who live far away or have transport challenges would manage with this stage.

Step 5: The Fostering Stage

The next stage in the adoption process is where you get a committal order from the DSW which allows you to take your child home for further bonding. Once the facility feels that you have sufficiently bonded with your child, they write to the DSW to inform them of your progress. If the DSW agree, we will be given a court date to appear in court for the committal order. If we are granted a committal order, the boy can come home with us to be fostered for 3 months. During these three months we can expect visits from the social welfare to assess that things are going well and that the child is being cared for.

Step 6: Adoption Order

After 3 months of fostering under supervision, we are then allowed to apply to the court for the adoption order. This will require one or two court appearances depending on how complicated his case is. Once the adoption order is granted, our boy will be legally ours. At this point we can apply for his new birth certificate and travel documents to allow him to travel with us to South Africa when we come home to visit. We are eagerly waiting for this glorious day!

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