By Fred K. Nkusi
Most recently, the Government lifted the ban which had been imposed on foreigners or persons outside Rwanda to adopt children in the country. Initially, the decision to bar the adoption of Rwandan children was based on reasonable concerns that children's best interest may not be potentially catered for. It was important to first ensure the protection of adopted children while abroad.
To start with, prospective adoptive parents had to comply with the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The Hague Convention is an international agreement to safeguard intercountry adoptions. It was concluded in 1993 to establish international standards of practices for intercountry adoptions.
Interestingly, adopting a child from a Convention country is similar in many ways to adopting a child from a country not party to the Convention. However, there are some key differences. In particular, those seeking to adopt may receive greater protections if they adopt from a Convention country.
Like many countries, Rwanda ratified this Convention and entered into force for Rwanda in July, 2012. Therefore, lifting the ban implies that concerns are perhaps no more. Equally, it signifies the country's willingness and ability to adhere to its international obligations under the Convention. The Convention, however, requires that State parties to it establish a Central Authority to be the authoritative source of information and point of contact. But, what's the objective of the Convention? The Convention aims to prevent the abduction, sale of, or trafficking in children, and it works to ensure that intercountry adoptions are in the best interests of children. The Convention recognizes intercountry adoption as a means of offering the advantage of a permanent home to a child when a suitable family has not been found in the child's country of origin. Nevertheless, it must be done in the child's best interest. In so doing, State parties to the Convention are required to take steps to ensure two main things. First, to be factually certain that child has been deemed eligible for adoption by the child's country of origin. Second, the consideration has been given to finding an adoption placement for the child in its country of origin.
Rwanda's adherence to intercountry adoption Convention is well expressed in the law Nº 32/2016 of 28/08/2016 governing persons and family. To begin with, this law recognises two forms of adoption. The first one is simple adoption, as seen in Article 288, which refers to maintaining filiation ties with the adoptee's family of origin, and the second is full adoption, as seen in Article 294 of the same law, that completely severs filiation ties with the adoptee's family of origin. However, the severance of filiation ties with the family of origin does not entail the loss of rights to his/her country. In these two forms of adoption, law provides specific requirements for adoption to be justified in each category.
More specifically, the foregoing law envisages 'intercountry Adoption' which creates relationship between a child and an adoptive parent with whom he/she has no kinship relationship but both are not domiciled in the same country. And intercountry adoption can either be simple adoption or full adoption. However, the law doesn't simply grant a blanket green light, there're essential requirements to be met prior to approving the adoption, such as adoption aimed at the interests of the child; there is no other person in the country of origin of the child to be adopted who wishes to adopt the child; the consent of those required to consent to the adoption was freely given and that all of them got necessary advice and were duly informed on consequences of their consent; the receiving State where the adopted child is to be transferred has proved that the intending intercountry adoptive parent has enough capacity to cater for the child and is of good moral integrity required for adoption; and the country of the intending adoptive parent has approved that the child will be allowed to enter and reside in such a country on a permanent basis.
In addition to having policy and statutory frameworks for child adoption, there's an institutional framework to foster child rights/interests. That's the National Commission for Children (NCC) whose core mandate is to promote and ensure child education that enables the child to be a worthy and patriotic citizen, among others.
Importantly, the NCC serves as a Central Authority mandated to be the authoritative source of information and point of contact on behalf of the government.
This isn't, however, enough to ensure the protection of the child's best interest, there's also a need to have a monitoring mechanism for intercountry adoption to constantly keep abreast of any development on a child's life. And, in case of non-compliance with agreed standards by adoptive parents, there must be a mechanism to resolve the issue or, if need be, to rescind the agreement for child adoption through court process.
Today, no one overlooks a barrage of cases of child abuse, exploitation and violence happening in various places around the world. Therefore, a very cautious approach is needed to ensure that the adopted children's rights are never abused.
Published on All Africa on October 10, 2017.
The internet offers a range of advantages but also a multitude of risks for children who are using it. Two key issues in this context are the need for developing critical literacy skills as well as the lack of child-centered design in online applications. In this post, LSE Professor Sonia Livingstone, who is currently contributing to the UK Government’s Internet Safety Strategy, illustrates why it is about time to give proper consideration to the needs and rights of children online.
“The internet must be made a better place for children.” So says the Lords’ Communications Committee, headlining its new report on “Growing up with the internet.” Publicity for the report has focused on its key recommendations, including that:
The report was published just after the Government announced its new Internet Safety Strategy to ensure the UK becomes “the safest place in the world for young people to go online.” And that announcement in turn came hot on the heels of the Children’s Commissioner for England’s report, Growing up Digital, which also called for a Children’s Digital Ombudsman, digital citizenship in schools, and the importance of child rights in the digital age.
So it seems that the internet is on the minds of many policy makers and practitioners who work with children, as well as parents and, indeed, children themselves. This in turn is because, clearly, the internet has quickly become a necessity rather than a luxury in children’s lives, and parents, educators and governments are struggling to keep up with the risks and opportunities it brings.
As an expert advisor to this new report by the House of Lords, I’ve been privileged to witness some great insights about what should be done. The report makes urgent recommendations, each carefully evidence-based (do check the written and oral evidence submitted).
I see this call – to anticipate child rights issues in designing online services and policies for their use – as a radical but vital contribution. Society cannot continue being reactive, discovering too late that services for “everyone” are used by children, sometimes literally at their own risk, or realizing the unintended consequences of ignoring children’s needs and rights only when something goes wrong.
This is inefficient, expensive, damages the reputation of businesses and the trust of parents and civil society. It also positions children as the canary in the coal mine, making them bear the risk for problems that we can already anticipate based on existing research and prior experience.
So what would it mean to design for a child-rights-friendly internet?
The key recommendation is for:
“Minimum standards for child-friendly design, filtering, privacy, data collection, terms and conditions of use, and report and response mechanisms for all businesses in the internet value chain, public bodies and the voluntary sector” (para 366).
This is supported by a series of design suggestions – for minimum standards for reporting and response to child users’ concerns, transparency and accountability for filters and data processing operations, default-on privacy settings and content filters (which adults can turn off, of course), and so on. And for a code of conduct by which all this can be brought together, monitored and evaluated. Crucial, too, is the expectation that:
“The Government should establish minimum standards of design in the best interests of the child for internet products. For the avoidance of doubt this is for all products that might reasonably be expected to attract a large proportion of children, not only those designed with children in mind” (para 299).
Too often, a duty of care is accepted for services targeted at children but not for all the other services that children use as part of “the general population” (which indeed they are). Yes, this may bear a cost, as the report also recognizes, stating that:
“Minimum standards should incorporate the child’s best interests as a primary consideration, and in doing so require companies to forgo some of their current design norms to meet the needs of children” (para 301).
Some may balk at this, but it’s worth remembering that the UK has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as so is obligated to ensure that businesses meet their responsibilities regarding child rights.
Perhaps the most telling claim in the report is that:
“We have found that there is resistance to providing services which incorporate the support and respect for rights that would enable a better internet experience for all children as they explore the wider internet” (para 298).
The internet is here to stay – and so are its child users. It’s time we prioritised their needs and rights, for the benefit of children now and society both now and in the future.
Published on LSE website on March 30, 2017.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out the rights that must be realized for children to develop their full potential, free from hunger and want, neglect and abuse. It reflects a new vision of the child. Children are neither the property of their parents nor are they helpless objects of charity. They are human beings and are the subject of their own rights. The Convention offers a vision of the child as an individual and as a member of a family and community, with rights and responsibilities appropriate to his or her age and stage of development. By recognizing children's rights in this way, the Convention firmly sets the focus on the whole child.