What is the procedure for adopting a child in Trinidad and Tobago?
The Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago is the only organisation that can legally provide adoption services. Adoptions are open to both nationals and non-nationals [s. 38]; all of which is governed by the Adoption of Children Act 2000, as amended:
s. 9(1) No person other than the Authority shall make arrangements for the adoption of a child.
s. 9 (2) Any other person who attempts to arrange for the adoption of children is liable on summary conviction to a fine of ten thousand dollars or to imprisonment for two years.
There are two types of adoptions available in T&T; open and closed.
- Open adoption is where biological parents are active in the adoption process. Names and contact information are shared both ways with the potential adoptive parent, but the level of contact between parties would depend on what the potential adoptive parent(s) is(are) willing to accommodate. This level of contact sometimes continues after the adoption is finalised.
- A closed adoption is where neither the adopter nor the birthparents know each other, nor do they ever meet. Most times no information is shared and is kept sealed by the Court.
If interested in becoming an adoptive parent, an ‘expression of interest’ should be submitted to the Children’s Authority’s headquarters located at #35A Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, via email at , or via telephone 627-0748 or 623-7555.
After ‘expression of interest’ is acknowledged, the applicant will be subjected to a screening process, inclusive of questions pertaining - but not limited- to marital status, date of birth/age, ethnicity, sex, employment, financial status, educational background, physical health, mental health, criminal history, etc. Also explored would be the reason for wanting to become an adoptive parent.
This information would guide what type of application best suits the applicant’s situation; whether it’s a single or married couple (the law currently only recognises heterosexual married couples). A single application can be made by both females and males, and does not discriminate against single male applicants.
Once the preliminary assessment is satisfied, the potential adoptive parent would then undergo a comprehensive psychosocial assessment which includes home visits and background checks on all members of the household. This assessment leads to a comprehensive report prepared to be submitted to the Adoption Committee within the Authority, who would give the approval for the applicant to be a Prospective Adoptive Parent (PAP) and placed on the adoption list. Once approval is granted, the applicant attends mandatory training provided by the Authority, which covers in-depth information on the adoption process, caring for children with special needs, caring for children who were abused, etc.
After the training, PAPs are then put through the matching process, which is based on the PAP's strengths identified in the previous assessments. The PAPs gives a description of the type of child they require inclusive of age, sex, ethnicity, skin colour, religious backgrounds, types of behaviours PAPs can deal with, etc. The PAP's requirements are then matched with the children who have been freed for adoption by the court [s.15]. If there is a match, the PAP would then be briefed on the child’s history.
Once both parties agree, a first interaction experience is done. This is the first time the PAPs would meet the potential adoptee. The adoption process is an extremely emotional one so PAPs are reminded that even though they may have seen pictures of the child, the child has no prior knowledge of the PAPs. The adoptee’s reaction to the PAPs is very uncertain and may go either way. After this first encounter, both parties are debriefed, whereby there are discussions on emotions felt during the session, especially the child’s reaction to the PAP [s. 22].
Once all parties are satisfied with the process thus far then the PAPs are granted a probationary period by the Adoption Committee. This temporary placement (probationary period) can last up to six (6) months [s. 12(1) and 19(1)], but varies depending on the details of the case. Once the probationary period is successful, an application is then made to the Court endorsed by the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago. The Court has the final decision on all adoptions. Once the application satisfies the court a final decision is made [s. 18 and 25]. After the adoption is finalised, the Children’s Authority continues to monitor and evaluate the placement to ensure that the placement continues to meet the needs of the child and or children.