Ghana

Last Updated: April 2013

Hague Adoption Convention Country?

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Hague Convention Information

Ghana is not party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption(Hague Adoption Convention).  Intercountry adoptions of children from non-Hague countries are processed in accordance with 8 Code of Federal Regulations, Section  204.3 as it relates to orphans as defined under the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 101(b)(1)(F).

The Ghanaian Department of Social Welfare has the sole legal authority to process adoptions in Ghana.  The Department of Social Welfare Head Office has oversight authority for all adoptions throughout Ghana.  Adoptions should be processed in the region of origin of the child.  Except under special circumstances, children should not be transported to another region for the purpose of processing an adoption.  There are no government fees for adoption in Ghana; however, adoptive parents pay for services rendered, such as court filing fees, the cost of obtaining official forms and reports, and legal fees, etc.

U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS FOR INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS

To bring an adopted child to the United States from Ghana, you must meet eligibility and suitability requirements.  The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determines who can adopt under U.S. immigration law.

Additionally, a child must meet the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law in order to be eligible to immigrate to the United States on an IR-3 or IR-4 immigrant visa. 

Who Can Adopt

In addition to U.S. immigration requirements, you must also meet the following requirements in order to adopt a child from Ghana:

  • Residency: Prospective adoptive parents must be resident in Ghana for a minimum of three months prior to the adoption of a child.  The prospective adoptive parents may request a waiver of the residency requirement through the court.  The courts may approve a waiver of the residency requirement with the recommendation of the Ministry of Social Welfare if it finds that to do so is in the best interests of the child.
  • Age of Adopting Parents: Adopting parents must be 25 years of age and at least 21 years older than the child.
  • Marriage: Generally, only married couples may adopt in Ghana.  A single person may adopt only if that person is a citizen of Ghana.  Single males may not adopt unless the child to be adopted is his child or the courts determine that special circumstances apply.  Same-sex couples may not adopt from Ghana. 
  • Income: Applicants must be gainfully employed.
  • Other: The Department of Social Welfare in Ghana requires that applicants must be of sound mind and must undergo a medical exam as part of the pre-approval process.  Applicants must also prove their ability to care for a child that may be socially and culturally different from themselves and who may have experienced trauma due to family deaths, institutionalization, neglect, etc.
Who Can be Adopted

In addition to U.S. immigration requirements, Ghana has specific requirements that a child must meet in order to be eligible for adoption: 

The Department of Social Welfare determines whether or not a child is eligible for adoption under Ghanaian law.  For a child to be eligible, he or she must meet at least one of the below criteria:

  • There is no known family for the child,
  • No family is available or capable of taking care of the child,
  • The child’s family is unwilling to take care of the child, or
  • The courts have terminated parental rights for reasons of abuse or neglect.

In cases where the family is unwilling or incapable of caring for the child, parents must relinquish their parental rights under the Ghanaian legal system (see below).

In cases where the family of the child is unknown, reasonable efforts must be made to locate the family for a period of at least three months.  If the family remains unknown after three months, the Department of Social Welfare may determine that the child is eligible for adoption.

Note: In Ghana, birth parents who relinquish or abandon their child(ren) may change their mind at any point in the adoption process prior to the final adoption order, and in such cases it is possible that the Department of Social Welfare and the Ghanaian court will reverse their adoptability finding and/or adoptive placement decisions.

  • Relinquishment: The Department of Social Welfare determines the validity of a relinquishment.  The relinquishment of parental rights means the parent(s) decide they do not want to or cannot take care of the child and have decided to let the Department of Social Welfare find other parent(s).  Whatever the reason, they are taken through a series of counseling sessions to ensure they understand the implications of the decision.  If the birth parents decide to continue with the relinquishment, they must execute an affidavit providing consent for their decision to have the child adopted.  In some cases a pregnant mother will notify the Department of Social Welfare of an unwanted pregnancy and ask to give the child up for adoption after delivery.  These mothers have the right to change their minds after they give birth, but if they decide to relinquish the child, they are also required to give formal consent before a notary public. 
  • Abandonment: In the Ghana, legal abandonment means the parent(s) voluntarily leaves the child and does not return.
  • Age of Adoptive Child: In Ghana, a child is adoptable until he or she becomes an adult at 18 years of age. 
  • Sibling Adoptions: The Department of Social Welfare makes every effort to ensure siblings are adopted together.  It discourages splitting siblings for adoption, except under special circumstances.
  • Special Needs or Medical Conditions: The Department of Social Welfare determines whether children with special needs or medical issues are available for adoption.  In these cases, it may be easier to waive the three-month trial period, particularly if there is a need for immediate medical attention.

Caution: Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that not all children in orphanages or children’s homes are adoptable.  In Ghana, as in many countries, birth parents place their child(ren) temporarily in an orphanage or a children’s home due to financial or other hardship, intending that the child return home when this becomes possible.  In such cases, the birth parent(s) have rarely relinquished their parental rights or consented to their child(ren)’s adoption.  

How To Adopt

Ghanian Adoption Authority

Department of Social Welfare

The Process

The process for adopting a child from Ghana generally includes the following steps:

  1. Choose an Adoption Service Provider
  2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
  3. Be Matched with a Child
  4. Adopt (or gain custody of) the child in Ghana
  5. Apply for the child to be found eligible for orphan status
  6. Bringing Your Child Home
  1. Choose an Adoption Service Provider:

    The recommended first step in adopting a child from Ghana is to decide whether or not to use a licensed adoption service provider in the United States that can help you with your adoption.  Adoption service providers must be licensed by the U.S. state in which they operate.  The Department of State provides information on selecting an adoption service provider on its website.

    Until recently, the Government of Ghana did not authorize foreign adoption service providers.  Only the Department of Social Welfare, under the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare, was authorized to provide adoption services in Ghana.  The Department of Social Welfare has recently begun to approve adoption agencies to assist in preparing adoptive families for adoption.  Currently, prospective adoptive parents are not required to adopt through an adoption agency.

    To begin the adoption process, either the prospective adoptive parents or the designated agency should contact the Department of Social Welfare to purchase adoption application forms.  These forms may be purchased from the Director of Social Welfare at any regional Social Welfare office for GHC 50.

  2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt:

    In order to adopt a child from Ghana, you will need to meet the requirements of Ghanaian law and U.S. immigration law.  You must submit an application to be found eligible to adopt with the Department of Social Welfare of Ghana.

    Applicants purchase the adoption application form from the Director of Social Welfare at any regional Social Welfare office for GHC 50 and submit the completed application, along with the attachments specified, to the Regional Director of Social Welfare in the region where the adoptive child lives.

    For domestic adoptions, a Social Welfare Officer visits the applicant's home and conducts a series of interviews to compile a report on the prospective adoptive parents.  The Social Welfare Officer then submits the report to an Adoption Placement Committee within the Department of Social Welfare.  For intercountry adoptions, the report submitted to the Adoption Placement Committee is a home study report prepared by an authorized agency in the country of residence of the applicants.

    The Adoption Placement Committee then reviews the application and home study documentation to determine whether the prospective adoptive parents meet eligibility requirements.  The review process can take three months or more.

    To meet U.S. immigration requirements, you may also file an I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition with U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to be found eligible and suitable to adopt. 

  3. Be Matched with a Child:

    If you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the Department of Social Welfare in Ghana will provide you with a referral.  Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of and provide a permanent home for a particular child.  

    The child must be eligible to be adopted according to Ghana’s requirements, as described in the Who Can Be Adopted section.  The child must also meet the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law. 

  4. Adopt or Gain Legal Custody of Child in Ghana:

    The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Ghana generally includes the following:

    • Role of Adoption Authority: The Ghanaian Department of Social Welfare has the sole legal authority to process adoptions in Ghana.  The Department of Social Welfare Head Office has oversight authority for all adoptions throughout Ghana.
    • Role of the Court: According to the Ghanaian Children’s Act 560 (1998), an application for an adoption order may be made to the High Court, Circuit Court or to any Family Tribunal which has jurisdiction where the applicant or the child resides at the date of the application.
    • Role of Adoption Agencies: Until recently, adoption agencies did not operate in Ghana.  In 2012, however, the government of Ghana began a pilot program of authorizing some adoption agencies to help facilitate intercountry adoptions.  Any adoption agency must to be approved by the Department of Social Welfare before working in Ghana.  Currently, prospective adoptive parents are not required to go through an adoption agency.
    • Time Frame: It generally takes about one year to complete an adoption in Ghana.  The U.S. immigration petition and visa process may require an additional one to six months for USCIS and/or the U.S. Embassy in Ghana to conduct investigations in individual adoption cases in Ghana.
    • Adoption Fees: Fees for adoption in Ghana vary depending on the circumstances.  Attorney’s fees usually range from GHC 2,000 to GHC 3,000 and they generally include court costs.  Passport fees range from GHC 50 to GHC 200, depending on the age and background of the applicant.
    • Documents Required: In general, the documents required are the same as for an adoption in the United States, including birth, marriage, and divorce records, medical examination and clearance, and evidence of financial stability and gainful employment.

      Note: Additional documents may be requested.

    • Authentication of Documents:  You may be asked to provide proof that a document from the United States is authentic.  If so, the Department of State, Authentications Office may be able to assist.

  5. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Orphan Status:

    After you finalize the adoption (or gain legal custody) in Ghana, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services must approve an immigrant visa petition for your child.  You will need to file and obtain approval of a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative

  6. Bring Your Child Home

    Once your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), you need to apply for several documents for your child before you can apply for a U.S. immigrant visa to bring your child home to the United States:

    • Birth Certificate
      If you have finalized the adoption in Ghana, you will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child.  Your name will be added to the new birth certificate.

      If you have been granted custody for the purpose of adopting the child in the United States, the birth certificate you obtain will, in most cases, not yet include your name.

      If your adopted child does not already have a birth certificate, you can obtain one through Ghana’s Births and Deaths Registry.  You can do this by visiting the Central Registry Office, which is located in Accra at the Ministries Annex near MDPI (Old Passport Office), or any District Registration Office.

    • Ghanian Passport
      Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Ghana.

      To obtain a Ghanaian passport for your adopted child, fill out a Ghana passport application and follow the procedures outlined by the Ghana Immigration Service.  For detailed instructions, see http://www.ghanaimmigration.org/acquisi_info.htm.

    • U.S. Immigrant Visa
      After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child and your Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative has been approved, you then need to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa for your child from the U.S. Embassy in Ghana.  This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you.  At your scheduled immigrant visa interview, a Consular Officer will review your child’s eligibility for a U.S. visa.  As part of this process, the Consular Officer must be provided the Panel Physician’s medical report on the child and the Consular Officer must determine that your child meets the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law. 

      You can find instructions for applying for an immigrant visa on the U.S. Embassy in Accra’s website.

Child Citizenship Act

For adoptions finalized abroad prior to the child’s entry into the United States:  A child will acquire U.S. citizenship upon entry into the United States if the adoption was finalized prior to entry and the child otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000
                                                                                         
For adoptions finalized after the child’s entry into the United States:  An adoption will need to be completed following your child’s entry into the United States for the child to acquire U.S. citizenship. 

*Please be aware that if your child did not qualify to become a citizen upon entry to the United States, it is very important that you take the steps necessary so that your child does qualify as soon as possible.  Failure to obtain citizenship for your child can impact many areas of his/her life including family travel, eligibility for education and education grants, and voting. Read more about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

Traveling Abroad

Applying for Your U.S. Passport

U.S. citizens are required by law to enter and depart the United States on a valid U.S. passport. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports. Getting or renewing a passport is easy.  The Passport Application Wizard will help you determine which passport form you need, help you to complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the form for you to print—all in one place.

Obtaining a Visa to Travel to Ghana

In addition to a U.S. passport, you may also need to obtain a visa.  A visa is an official document issued by a foreign country that formally allows you to visit.  Where required, visas are affixed to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation.  To find information about obtaining a visa for Ghana, see the Department of State’s Country Specific Information.

Staying Safe on Your Trip

Before you travel, it is always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country.  The Department of State provides Country Specific Information for every country of the world about various issues, including the health conditions, crime, unusual currency or entry requirements, and any areas of instability. 

Staying in Touch on Your Trip

When traveling during the adoption process, we encourage you to enroll with the Department of State.  Enrollment makes it possible to contact you if necessary.  Whether there is a family emergency in the United States or a crisis in Ghana, enrollment assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.

Enrollment is free and can be done online via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

After Adoption

Ghana has no post-adoption reporting requirements.

Post-Adoption Resources
Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption.  There are many public and private nonprofit post-adoption services available for children and their families. There are also numerous adoptive family support groups and adoptee organizations active in the United States that provide a network of options for adoptees who seek out other adoptees from the same country of origin.  Take advantage of all the resources available to your family— whether it is another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services. 

Here are some places to start your support group search:

Note: Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents. 

Contact Information

U.S. Embassy in Ghana
The Consular Section is located in the Embassy at:
24 Fourth Circular Road.
Cantonments, Accra
Tel: (233) (21) 741-000
Fax: (233) (21) 741-389
E-mail: consulateaccra@state.gov or AccraAdoption@state.gov
Internet: ghana.usembassy.gov/

Ghana’s Adoption Authority
The Department of Social Welfare
Client Services Unit
P.O. Box M230
Accra, Ghana
Tel: 233-21-662-857

Embassy of Ghana
3512 International Drive, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Tel: 202-686-4520
Email: Consular@ghanaembassy.org
Internet: ghanaembassy.org

*Ghana also has a consulate in Houston, TX and consular services are available at the Ghana Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, NY.

Office of Children’s Issues
U.S. Department of State  
CA/OCS/CI  
SA-17, 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Tel:  1-888-407-4747
Email: AskCI@state.gov
Internet: adoption.state.gov

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about immigration procedures:
National Customer Service Center (NCSC)
Tel:  1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
Internet: uscis.gov

For questions about filing a Form I-600A or I-600 petition:
National Benefits Center
Tel: 1-877-424-8374 (toll free); 1-816-251-2770 (local)
Email: NBC.Adoptions@DHS.gov