Dear Ghana Families,

Happy New Year! We hope this update finds you all in good health. We would like to start the year off with this update and continue to provide you with an update on a monthly basis.

As you are all aware, Ghana is a developing nation on the West Coast of Africa. It is known for being one of the most peaceful, if not the most peaceful, of all African nations. As a developing country, Ghana is in need of improving its infrastructure especially with roads, schools, public water, and communications. Often times it is very difficult to make telephone or email contacts with people in Ghana, so information is often delayed. That applies to communications with the U.S. Embassy in Ghana as well. We are appreciative that you all keep this in mind and continue to be patient as we wait for updated information.

More and more people are adopting in Africa since the slowdown of adoptions in Asia. We are very happy to see this increased interest, as the need for permanency options in Africa is greater than any other regions of the world. It is important that each prospective adoptive family familiarize themselves with the history and culture of Ghana. This will allow you to have a better understanding of how your child has been raised and the customs that your child is used to. Additionally, it is vitally important that each family review the programs on adopting an African child and raising an African child offered by Adoption Learning Partners.

Children in Ghana become available for adoption for several reasons. Some children are found abandoned or deserted and then placed in an orphanage. Some children are placed in the orphanage by their biological families due to severe economic reasons,  the death of one or both parents, or for protective reasons. When the biological parents or grandparents are known, the court will require their consent for the adoption. Generally speaking, we are provided with a limited amount of information on the social history of the child. We try our best to gather as much information as we can from police reports, orphanage records and Ministry of Social Affairs. In many cases, the information is extremely limited.

Please keep in mind that every child has a distinct and individual personality. While this is pretty obvious, we must keep in mind that each child will have experienced distinct events in his/her life that have led up to the child’s placement in an orphanage. Some of those events can be startling like physical harm, both unintentional and intentional. Examples of this could be hot water falling on the infant accidentally, death of parents or a child left in the bush for several days. These events at a young age do not necessarily mean that there will be a life time of adverse affects on the emotions of the child or any adverse affects on the child at all. This is why adopting a child is a “leap of faith.” If any of you have any questions about this or would like reference material on this topic, please let us know and we can provide that to you. It is a topic commonly addressed during you pre-adoption training course.

As you are all aware, once you have been referred a child and your dossier is complete, your petition to adopt will be filed in the regional court where the child resides. Once the court accepts the petition, it will assign a court date to grant the petition. The courts have two options at this point: one is to issue a final adoption decree, which is the most common; and the other option is to issue a two-year interim adoption order. This is similar to a guardianship pending adoption order that is commonly used in India and South Korea. All of our cases so far have been final adoption decrees. The court takes 2-3 days after the adoption hearing to issue the Decree. Once the Decree is issued, Boat (our in-country liaison) will run it to Accra for attestation at the Supreme Court and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It will take 3-4 days to complete that. At the same time, if the child does not have a Birth Certificate (abandoned children) you will file for the Ghanian Birth Certificate. Once you have the fully attested Decree, you can submit your Form I-600 to the U.S. Embassy in Accra. The Embassy will take approximately 60 days to process the I-600 petition.

In dealing with the US Embassy, you will find this to be a rather difficult matter. In order to come into the Embassy to file any documents, you must first request for an appointment by email . Sometimes the Embassy will have a prompt response but more commonly they take at least a few days. It is very frustrating, but the Embassy has limited staff that has to deal with multiple matters, in addition to adoption matters. Your patience with our Embassy is greatly appreciated.

After the Embassy approves your I-600 petition, you will receive an email advising you that your file has been transferred to the Consular Section of the Embassy. Then approximately 2-3 weeks later your will receive an email from the Consular Section notifying your visa interview packet is ready to be picked up. Once that packet is picked up by our staff in Ghana, your child’s medical exam and TB test can be taken and a visa interview date requested. The Embassy will assign you a date to come into to submit your child’s visa application (DS-230). You will be in Ghana for approximately one week on the second, or final, trip.

Please note that sometimes when you have filed the I-600, the US Embassy will send you an email a few days later giving you a date to come to receive your child’s visa. THIS IS A CLERICAL ERROR. A visa cannot be issued until the I-600 has been processed and this includes, in all cases in Ghana, an I-604 field investigation. This takes approximately 60 days to complete. When the investigation is completed and the I-600 is approved, USCIS Accra will transfer your file to DOS Accra (Consular Section). It will take Consular Section 2-4 weeks to issue you an email advising you to pick up your visa information packet. After the packet has been picked up and all the steps followed as listed in the packet, then and only then, can you submit the OF-169 form requesting a visa interview date. As you can see, it will take up to three (3) months after you filed the I-600 to receive your confirmed visa interview date.

While you are in Ghana on your first trip, you are presented with a difficult choice. The choice is whether to have your child spend time with you at your hotel or to keep your child in the orphanage and visit him/her on a daily basis. It is very natural to want to have your child with you and out of the orphanage while you are there, but we ask that you keep in mind that you will have to return your child to the orphanage once you are ready to come back to the States. That can create confusion and grief for the child. If you decide to have your child with you in the hotel, we recommend that you spend the first three days visiting with your child at the orphanage so that he/she has some connection to you before taking him/her to your hotel. You should expect your child to show some concern and fear about being taken from the orphanage and being with you in the hotel. That concern can manifest itself in the form of crying, being despondent and being inconsolable. That is a normal response and should minimize after a few days of being with you. Your other option is to keep your child in the environment he/she is familiar with and visit a few hours in the morning and then in the afternoon each day.

We have one family traveling to Ghana this month to bring their son home. We have two families waiting for their I-600 petition to be approved. We have two families getting ready to travel for their first trip and approximately (7) families working on their dossiers.

We understand that there is a Yahoo chat group, as well as a Facebook group on adopting in Ghana. While chat groups like this can give prospective adoptive families the opportunity to meet each other and discuss issues, it can also be a place where misinformation is given. We have seen many families get upset due to misinformation being listed on this site and request that if you are on this site that you contact us directly with any questions regarding alarming or questionable posts.

There are many children in Ghana in need of permanent loving families so we encourage you to recommend our program to any families you know who may have an interest in adopting in Ghana. Thank you for your continued patience. Please feel free to call us anytime if you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely yours,

Faith Team

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