Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Zambian Adoption Q&A

One of our long time readers, Laura, sent in a super informative Q&A about Zambian adoption. I love that there are so many options out there, and that each bit of Africa offers something different. Thank you, Laura! If you want to follow her blog as it progresses, check it out here.

Currently, it is very difficult to adopt a younger child (less than three years of age). However, if you are open to an older child or special needs than it may be OK, but still with its challenges. The adoption system is currently being revamped with a recent change in government, as of September 2012.

Basic Requirements:

You may be married or single to adopt. Single women may adopt either gender. Single men may only adopt boys.

You must be at least 25 years of age. If married, one of the spouses must be over 25 years of age.

You must be at least 21 years of age older than the child you intend to adopt. If married, one of the spouses must be at least 21 years older than the child intended to be adopted.

There is a "mandatory" 3 month fostering period. However, this may be waived by the High Court Magistrate for certain cases (special needs, etc.). 

Currently, there are no US agencies working with the Zambian government so everything is independently done. The Zambian government is currently piloting adoption programs with Canada and Sweden. 

Approximate cost of adoption from Zambia:

Airfare - $2000 round trip for 1 adult, and $1200 for one way child

Government fees - $10 for committal order fee, may be asked to provide cell phone time or transportation for social workers

Lawyer (recommended, not required) - $1500

Lodging, Accomodation, and Transportation for 3 months - $4500

Approximate Total: $9200 

1) Application to Zambian government through the Ministry of Social Welfare to apply for the identification of a orphaned child

- This is done at the National Social Welfare office. An American homestudy and USCIC immigration pre-approval is very helpful (and I would recommend) but isn't necessarily required.

(This process took approximately 1 month of time for us and wasn't difficult. We were easily approved based on our American homestudy and letters we provided to SW. Other Americans I have known to adopt have also been easily approved.)

2) Zambian Social Welfare identifies a child that is available for adoption

- This is done at the District Social Welfare Office by the Social Welfare Officer (Lusaka is very busy and I know that families seem to be having an easier time outside of Lusaka)

- Babies are not usually available. If a young child is desired, the age range is usually 0-3 years.

- Being open to an older child (greater than 5 years) and/or one with Special Needs makes you MUCH MORE likely to have a child identified

(One child was identified for us but the relatives chose to care for the child. No other children were identified over the period of 9 months. We self-identified our son as being available for adoption through our time volunteering at the orphanage. The Zambian Government has piloted adoption programs with Sweden and Canada and I don't know of any children that have been identified for American families by the Zam Gov't in the last 9 months.)

3) An assessment report is done by the Zambian Social Welfare Officer to assess capability of parents and housing situation

4) Committal order is done through the court which gives the child into your custody

(Because our son had special needs, our committal order was done 10 days after he was identified as available for adoption - extremely fast for Zambia!)

5) "Officially" Apply for Adoption through Social Welfare office which gives you the  "Effective Date of Notice" letter which starts the "mandatory" 3 month fostering period. This is a letter from the National Social Welfare Office which states the date upon which the fostering-to-adopt period officially starts.

- Requires another assesment by the Zambian Social Worker

(Done for us about 1 month after our committal order - should be done as soon as possible after the committal order)

6) Apply for Court

- Typically done after the "mandatory" 3 month fostering period - may be waived for special needs 

- Lawyer is recommended but not required

- Case will be presented before a magistrate at the High Court

7) USCIS approval 

8) Apply for Zambian birth certificate, adoption decree, and passport

9) Come home! :)

Additional Resources:

Facebook group: "Adopting from Zambia"


  1. Hello there. I'm a missionary currently living in Zambia. ONE- anyone e adopting in Zambia should contact us about accomidations before they book something blindly. Second- we didn't have a homestudy before we left USA. We will be in Zambia almost three years before we head home for a break...but our home is here. Do we need and American homestudy? Thanks. Jwzhgbrown@gmail.com

  2. Just and FYI:
    The rule against single men adopting female children from Zambia went away in 2012! Check the State Department website for confirmation. Excellent news for many!