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Adoption in Jamaica

Formal Adoption in Jamaica dates back to the 1950s when the Children (Adoption of) Act came into being.   For decades prior, Jamaicans had participated in informal adoptions, helping to nurture and care for young relatives and members of their community.

Adoption is the legal process by which the rights of a child’s biological parents are transferred to new parents.

Adoption Administration in Jamaica

The Adoption Board is the only body that is authorised to approve the adoption of children in Jamaica. This service is managed for the Board by the Child Development Agency which, accepts, processes and assesses all applications for adoption; and presents the cases to the Board for further evaluation.  The Board reviews the cases and makes a determination regarding approval or denial.

To be Eligible for Adoption, a Child should be:

  • Over Six (6) weeks and under 18 years old.
  • Applications must be received at least six (6) months before a child attains his or her eighteenth (18th) birthday.

Birth parents have to agree by giving their consent to adopt, unless:

  • They are dead. Evidence of their death, such as a death certificate, must be provided.
  • A child is a ward of the State, without parental involvement.
  • They cannot be found; evidence of attempts made to locate them eg. newspaper advertisement.
  • They are incapable of giving consent e.g. Due to mental disability with supporting evidence.
  • Withholding consent unreasonably.

Who can Adopt a child?

  • Single person
  • Married Couples
  • Two parents married to each other; one can adopt with the agreement of the other (singly.)
  • Applicants should be domiciled in Jamaica.
  • A parent can adopt his or her own child.
  • Applicants should be 25 years old and over. If they are related to the child being adopted they can be under 25 years old, but should be over 18 years. (There is no upper age limit). However, an applicant would be assessed based on age of child being adopted, medical conditions of applicant and family support available for child being adopted.

Two types of Adoption Procedures

When a prospective adoptive parent lives in Jamaica, the adoption is finalised in Jamaica, with the Court issuing an Adoption Order. If the adoptive parent lives overseas, the Court in Jamaica issues an Adoption Licence which grants the prospective parent the right to take the child overseas. The Adoption Order which finalises the process, is issued by the Court in the person’s country of residence.  

  • Application for an Adoption Order – that is the completion of an adoption in Jamaica.
  • Application for an Adoption Licence – approval for the child to be released to a citizen of any of the scheduled countries in order for the adoption process to be completed overseas.

The Licence Arrangement

  • Section 24 of the Children “Adoption of” Act makes provision for the Licence to send children abroad for the finalization of the adoption. Licences are issued for children to travel to the following jurisdictions:
    • All commonwealth countries
    • The United States of America
    • Sweden
    • Denmark

Phases of the Adoption Process

The adoption process is carried out in two stages. The pre-adoption stage is to determine basic eligibility, and the formal adoption stage is to facilitate a more detailed investigation and completion of the process.

Getting the Adoption Process Started-

The Pre-Adoption Process

  • To begin the process of adopting a child you should visit the CDA office in your parish or the Agency’s website at  Click on Adoption and Forms; download the forms; complete and return them to any Child Development Agency office islandwide.
  • Applicants will receive a response to your application within 4 -6 weeks.
  • This is necessary as sometimes based on the information provided, an investigation may need to be done before an acceptable response can be provided.
  • A response will be provided acknowledging receipt of the form as well informing whether the pre-application was denied or approved.
  • If an application was approved the applicant will be sent, electronically, a second package with the formal application and a booklet with all documentation that are required.
  • When an applicant has obtained all documents required, the completed package is to be returned to the Child Development Agency which will provide a receipt for the application.

Continuing the Process

  • The Applicant is provided with a case number and the name of  his or her case worker who will advise of appointments that will be scheduled in order to process the case.
  • Arrangements will be made for an officer to visit the applicant’s home to check to determine its suitability.
  • Applicants requesting a child will be placed on a waiting list which is arranged based on a first-come-first-serve basis and on the specifications requested.
  • After all documentation required is obtained, and all consents and interviews gathered, the case is now ready for the Case Committee report to be prepared.
  • A Case Committee Report will be prepared by the case worker and submitted through the Adoption Coordinator to the Adoption Board for approval.
  • After a case is submitted to the Case Committee of the Adoption Board and decision is made, the case will return from the Case Committee with a decision which will be relayed to the applicant.
  • Approved cases are then prepared for Court. Applicants have to attend an interview and have dialogue with their case worker to make the necessary arrangements for Court.
  • To make an adoption legal, a Court has to grant an Order.
  • Persons who complete the adoption of children, become the legal parents of the children they have adopted, and all the legal rights of biological parents are transferred permanently to the adoptive parents.
  • After the order is issued by the Court, the Adopter will take this document to the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) to apply for the child’s adopted birth certificate. It should be noted that once a child has been adopted, their former identity is no longer admissible and their former birth record is sealed.

The Adoption Licence

  • The Licence gives prospective adoptive parents the right to take the child with them to the country where they reside.
  • This Licence should be kept for immigration purposes.
  • The Licence requires the adopter to notify the social work agency which will be supervising the placement, as soon as the child is taken abroad.
  • It is expected that the necessary placement reports will be submitted to the Child Development Agency, at the required intervals, as stated on the Licence.
  • It is also expected that the adoption will be completed within two years.
  • A child who goes abroad on a licence, keeps his or her original identity until adopted by the applicant.
  • After obtaining an Order a copy should be sent to the Adoption Board.

General Information for Persons Considering Adoption

  • Not all children in Children’s Home are available for adoption.
  • Applicants are not allowed to visit Children’s Home to select children.
  • Each country has specific immigration requirements that are enforced, and applicants are advised to check their countries’ adoption requirements prior to submitting an application for adoption.
  • Adoption should be in a child’s best interest and therefore should not be seen as a means for migration, trafficking or removing children from their stable family setting to one of uncertainty and unfamiliarity. 
  • An applicant is not required to pay for an adoption.
  • Persons should not make private arrangements for adoption.

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The Child Development Agency (CDA) is a leader in Jamaica's child protection system, with a growing regional reputation for its work in promoting child-friendly policies and ground-breaking programmes...
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