1. The Parents
The adoption law of each state in Nigeria varies. In Lagos State, the prospective parents must be at least 25 years old. A single applicant must be at least 35 years old. In other states of Nigeria, prospective parents must be at least 25 years old if married, provided that at least one is not less than 21 years older than the child they want to adopt.
Applicants must be in generally good health. Applicants with special circumstances like a history of divorce, mental or emotional health issues, and diagnosed medical conditions should consult an adoption service provider to determine individual qualifications for adoption. Same-sex married couples are explicitly not allowed to adopt children from Nigeria. There is no minimum income requirement for intercountry adoption from Nigeria. However, parents must meet USCIS and state requirements to prove their ability to support the child.
2. The Family
There are no specific family restrictions regarding the children already in the home, minimum ages, or age gaps between resident and adopted children. However, Nigeria prefers to keep birth order, with only a few exceptions. Some orphanages may not prefer to place a child with a family with multiple children. Please speak with an accredited adoption service provider about your family’s specific make-up and whether you meet their agency-specific requirements.
3. The Kids
Children available for adoption in Nigeria can range from 2 years old up to 16 years old. Most children from 2-5 years old have some identified special needs, ranging from mild or correctable to severe, including emotional, developmental, and physical conditions. Children aged five years and older are typically healthy and often part of a sibling group. As with any child who has lived in institutional care, it’s common to see emotional and developmental delays at any age. Sibling groups are available and often include older children even older than 16.
Children in Nigeria are often abandoned or surrendered to orphanages due to poverty-related social problems or birth parent illnesses. However, not all children in orphanages are eligible for adoption. It’s crucial to work with a reputable adoption service provider to identify the child(ren) available for adoption to ensure ethical adoption practices.
In 2021, just over 44% of the children placed were boys, and almost 56% were girls.
4. The Process
Once you have completed the application process with your preferred agency, you must apply to Nigeria’s Ministry of Youth & Social Development. A family cannot travel to adopt their child until they have been registered at the Ministry for at least one year. At that point, you will also work with your agency to complete the home study process, including submission of the proper non-Hague program requirements to USCIS. The agency will walk you through the process of assembling your dossier, pending pre-approval from USCIS. Each state within Nigeria has unique requirements for its process, so it’s imperative that prospective parents work with an agency that can guide them through the process for that state.
When approvals are complete, you will receive a referral for a child. It is highly recommended that you seek assistance from a reputable international adoption medical clinic to review the file thoroughly. Upon acceptance of the referral, your agency will deliver your dossier to the Ministry of Youth & Social Development for approval. Once that dossier and match have been approved, you will receive travel approval. Typically, this process can take approximately 1½ to 2 years from turning in your application to adoption finalization. The specific time frame will depend upon the profile of the child you are seeking to adopt.
5. The Travel
When you have gained approval to travel, you should plan for an extended stay for the required bonding and court period. Prospective parents have two travel options:
*Option 1: Travel to Nigeria, completing the bonding and court period in about six weeks (if married, both parents must be present for this period). Apply for and obtain the child’s passport and remain in Nigeria until the child’s visa appointment is scheduled. The child must go to an Embassy doctor appointment, and the adoption is finalized at the Embassy visa appointment.
*Option 2: Travel to Nigeria and complete the six weeks, which includes the bonding and court period (again, if married, both parents must be present during the bonding and court period). Once the bonding and court requirement is satisfied (and the child is legally yours), parents apply for the child’s passport. At that time, they can choose to take the child back to the orphanage for care and protection and return to the US to wait for the Embassy to issue a visa appointment. When the child’s visa appointment has been scheduled, the parents return to Nigeria for a trip of 2-3 weeks. This trip includes the Embassy doctor appointment and visa appointment at the US Embassy to finalize the intercountry adoption process. At this point, Nigeria only requires one parent to travel.
Your adoption service provider will guide you through either option, including the resources they offer (if any) in-country and the providers with whom they work in the state where you are adopting in Nigeria. Wait times for a child’s visa typically run at least 12 months or longer. It should be noted that there are no stated time frames in which the Embassy will issue the said visa.
6. The Program
Nigeria is NOT a member of the Hague Convention. Therefore, prospective parents are strongly recommended to only work with a reputable adoption service provider with an established relationship with the Nigerian state’s social welfare office (usually named the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development).
As each Nigerian state has unique adoption requirements and restrictions, prospective adoptive parents should be certain to understand the information pertinent to the state from which they are adopting. The USCIS offices strongly recommend that hopeful parents not attempt to process their adoption through local officials who may attempt to circumvent the legal process.
In 2021, 111 children were placed in US homes by Nigeria’s Ministry of Youth & Social Development in US homes. There were 83 placed in 202 and 116 placed in 2019.
7. The Cost
Nigeria is not a Hague-convention nation. Therefore no Median Adoption Service Provider Convention Fee is documented in the State Department’s FYE 2021 Annual Report. However, hopeful adoptive families should expect the costs to range from $40,000 to $55,000, factoring in documentation, travel, and living expenses.
8. The Needs
There is a wide range of special needs represented by the children available for adoption from Nigeria, including being part of a sibling group. Typically, sibling groups include children seven and older. Older children (5 and up) usually have identified special needs, ranging from mild or correctable to severe, including emotional, developmental, and physical conditions. It’s important to remember that children in orphanages frequently also develop behavioral and emotional needs related to living in institutional care instead of a family.
9. The Post-Adoption Reports
Many adoption service providers who work with the Nigeria program require a post-adoption home visit within 30 days of your arrival home. Nigeria also requires post-adoption reports to be sent to the Ministry of Youth & Social Development yearly until the child turns 18 years old:
- A social worker must complete the one-month, first-year, and second-year reports from your child being home.
- After the child has been home for two years, parents can self-report until the child turns 18.
- All reports need to include 6-8 updated photos of the child, with at least one photo with both parents. The reports should include information on the child’s development and pictures.
However, post-adoption reporting can also vary among individual Nigerian states. Your adoption service provider will advise you on the frequency, content, and required documentation needed for your child’s post-adoption reports.
Creating a Family always urges families to comply with post-adoption requirements in a timely manner. Your cooperation contributes to the program’s stability and adds to Nigeria’s history of positive experiences with US-citizen parents.
10. The Additional Resources
- US Department of State Intercountry Adoption from Nigeria
- US Department of State Annual Report FYE 2021 on Intercountry Adoption
- US Department of State Adoption Statistics
- US Department of State Non-Convention Adoption Process for Intercountry Adoption
- Creating a Family’s International Adoption Resource Page
- Cradle of Hope Adoption Center Inc.’s Nigeria Post-Adoption Primary Provider Services
- Sunrise Family Services Society Nigeria Resource Page (Relative-Adoption only)
This information is current as of March 2023 and represents our best estimates and approximations only. Depending upon your individual circumstances, even the widest ranges can vary greatly. Please always refer back to your chosen adoption service provider for specifics regarding your process.
This information is subject to change; therefore, check with an agency approved to place from this country for the most current information.
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Image Credits: USAID Digital Development; Raphealny