Zimbabwe is probably the best place to go on safari in the South of Africa with the largest waterfall in the world, the Victoria Falls; the largest man-made lake, Lake Kariba; and national parks, Hwange and Mana. This rich tourism is coupled with Zimbabweans practice of immense hospitality to visitors. They are generally very friendly and relaxed people.
Another good thing about Zimbabweans, despite the fact of having 16 languages, the majority of them can speak decent English. Hence, when it comes to adopting from Zimbabwe, prospective adoptive parents can expect an accommodating system. Other than that, bringing a Zimbabwean child home and raising him or her means a fairly easy job to do since the language barrier, one major challenge in international adoption, is minimal.
International adoption in Zimbabwe is rare, but it is so much permitted by the country’s central authority for adoption, which is the Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare, which conducts rigid supervision from the beginning of the adoption process to the end. Like most countries, international adoption in Zimbabwe follows this general flow:
- Registering with an adoption service provider
- Examining the prospective adoptive parents’ eligibility to adopt
- Parent-child referral and matching
- In-country legal proceedings
- Applying for the child’s orphan status
- Bringing the child home
Moreover, the cost of an international adoption process in Zimbabwe should be around $20,000 to $50,000, including the agency fees, home study, documentation, travel, and the like. Neither the Government of Zimbabwe nor the courts charge adoption fees.
Adoptions in Zimbabwe can take at least three months to a maximum of 7 years. Some cases could take that long due to some bureaucratic delays within the Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare and the Juvenile Courts, but that is why this article will provide prospective adoptive parents with everything there is to know about Zimbabwe international adoption to make the duration of the process as short as possible, and so that prospective adoptive parents are not going to spend a fair amount of money just so to abandon the adoption in the long run.
What to Know Before Proceeding with the Adoption Process
Who are eligible to adopt?
- Prospective adoptive parents should be married unless the Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare approves of any exceptions. (They should be at least 25 years older than the prospective adoptive child.)
- Single women are allowed to adopt any child eligible for adoption. (They should be at least 21 years older than the adopted child. Also, unmarried single women should be at least 25 years old when they file the Form I-600 Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.)
- Single men are only allowed to adopt family members and male children. (They should be at least 21 years older than the adopted child and should be at least 25 years old when they file the Form I-600 Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.)
- Prospective adoptive parents should be either citizens or legal residents of Zimbabwe. (Those who are not should request a waiver of the residency requirement from the Ministry.)
- Prospective adoptive parents should be financially stable, proven with evidence.
- Prospective adoptive parents should be physically and mentally healthy, proven with evidence.
- Prospective adoptive parents should have a clean criminal history unless otherwise some minor exceptions depending on the case.
- Gay, lesbian, or same-sex couples are not permitted to adopt in Zimbabwe.
What are the documents to be prepared?
- Authenticated identity documents (passport, birth certificate, etc.)
- Authenticated Marriage certificate (if applicable)
- Police clearances from both the country of origin and Zimbabwe
- Approved home study report
- Three or four references from non-relatives of the prospective adoptive parents
- Recent medical examination documents
- Income tax returns
Who are eligible to be adopted?
- Children under 18 years of age.
- Children over 18 with a waiver from the Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare, and must have already been petitioned before they are 16.
- Children whose birth parents are deceased.
- Children who were abandoned.
- Children who were legally relinquished by their birth parents.
The Adoption Process
Registering with an adoption service provider
Prospective adoptive parents should register with a primary service provider or an adoption agency that is licensed within their state of residency. It’s preferable to register with a Hague accredited agency such that non-Hague country adoptions, by virtue of the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (UAA), are mandated to follow Hague Adoption Convention-compatible standards.
The role of the agency is to assist the prospective adoptive parents in the documentation, home study and parent training, application for certification of orphan eligibility, petition, visa, and the like. They may submit documents on behalf of the prospective adoptive parents, but they strictly should not act on behalf of the prospective adoptive parent. Therefore, the prospective adoptive parents should be present in Zimbabwe during all of the key steps in the adoption process, including identification of the child, obtaining documentation, and all administrative and court proceedings. The prospective adoptive parents should start the adoption process with the Ministry or their district Social Welfare Officer.
Examining the prospective adoptive parents’ eligibility to adopt
Prospective adoptive parents should be able to meet the qualifications for eligibility enumerated above. If they are able to satisfy the requirements, they may submit an application to be found eligible to adopt to the Ministry of Public Service Labor and Social Welfare of Zimbabwe. Moreover, they may also file a Form 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.
Parent-child referral and matching
Next, once the application to be found eligible to adopt is approved, the Ministry or the adoption authority or other authorized entity in Zimbabwe will provide the prospective adoptive parents with a referral.
If the prospective adoptive parents have not identified a child for adoption yet, the Ministry should be able to assist in identifying an appropriate child. Otherwise, if the prospective adoptive parents have already identified a child they want to adopt, they should be able to visit the Social Services Office in their district to open a case file and, thus, file an application to adopt the child. The waiting period for the approval of the match by which the child has to wait in the custody of the orphanage or foster care should be normally at a minimum of 6 months, depending on the type of case and, thus, the time it takes for the Ministry to examine and approve of the adoption application.
Adoptions wherein birth parents who relinquish a child directly to prospective adoptive parents, referred to as “nominated” or “directed” adoptions, are legal in Zimbabwe, but this type of adoptions may not meet the guidelines for immigration to the adoptive parents’ country, for instance, the US.
In-country legal proceedings
Once the Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare has already sent a referral to the prospective adoptive parents, the parents shall be able to identify a child they would want to adopt on their own or with the Ministry’s aid. After this, the prospective adoptive parents will have to send an application to adopt to the Ministry, which will then be responsible for referring the case to the Juvenile Court.
The Juvenile court will have to review the adoption case. If they approve, they shall be able to issue an adoption order and release the child for immigration.
Service providers or the adoption agency and licensed attorneys should be able to offer significant assistance in the application.
Applying for the child’s orphan status
When the adoption has already been finalized, the adopted child should now be verified and found eligible as an orphan. The adoptive parents, with an approved and valid Form I-600A, which is an Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition, should then file a Form I-600, which is a Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative. The child must be under 16 years old upon filing the petition, and the adoptive parents must be at least 25 years old.
These are the definitions of an orphan:
- A child whose birth parents are deceased, have disappeared, have abandoned or deserted the child, and have been separated or have lost contact with the child;
- A child whose unwed birth mother is unable to care for the child properly and has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption;
- A child whose unwed birth mother does not marry (which would result in the child having a stepfather) and the child’s biological father has not legitimated the child; and
- A child whose surviving birth parent has not married since the death of the other parent (which would result in the child’s having a stepfather or stepmother).
If only one of the adoptive married parents is traveling to Zimbabwe, he or she must sign the Form I-600 petition under oath before a consular officer. The parent who is not present must sign the petition after all of the information related to the child has been entered onto the form. Either spouse may sign the Form I-600 application as the “prospective petitioner” with the other signing as the “spouse.” Otherwise, if the married couple consists of one native citizen of their country of residence and one non-citizen, the native citizen should be the “prospective petitioner” on both Forms I-600A and I-600 and sign the application before the consular officer. A third party is not allowed to sign or file the petition on behalf of the prospective adoptive parents, even with their Power of Attorney.
Bringing the child home
Once the adoption has already been finalized, in order to bring the child home to the adoptive parents’ country, they should apply for an immigrant visa. These are the documents necessary to apply for a visa and to bring the child home in general.
Adoptive parents should apply for a new birth certificate for the adoptive child with their names written as adoptive parents. Adoptive parents should send the application for a new birth certificate to the Registrar General’s Office of Births and Deaths (located in Harare or Bulawayo). The Registrar should charge the adoptive parents $2 for the new birth certificate.
The child is still a Zimbabwean by nationality until he or she is granted the adoptive parents’ citizenship upon immigration. Therefore, the child should need a passport from Zimbabwe to travel.
To obtain the child’s Zimbabwean passport, the adoptive parents should submit an application through the Registrar General’s district offices.
The following fees apply:
- $50 USD for routine processing, which takes more than a month to process;
- $318 USD for expedited processing, which takes one day to process;
- $253 USD for a passport, which takes about three working days to process.
The adoptive parents should apply in person for the passport application, or they may opt to contact Zimbabwe District Offices over the phone. Contact numbers for these District offices are listed below. However, it is better and more preferable that adoptive parents apply in person.
- Harare: +263-4-702-295
- Bulawayo: +263-9-68-491
- Gweru: +263-54-223-155
- Masvingo: +263-39-263-876/263-705
- Mutare: +263-20-60-701/60-276
- Bindura: +263-71-6511/6119
- Chinhoyi: +263-67-23-013
- Gwanda: +263-84-22-587/22-618
If the adoptive parents already succeeded in obtaining the adopted child’s new birth certificate and passport, and if they have already filed the Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, and is approved and valid, they may now have to apply for the child’s immigrant visa at the embassy. This immigrant visa is the child’s pass to travel home with the adoptive parents and be permitted to enter and permanently live in the adoptive parents’ country. As part of this process, the adoptive parents should also be able to comply with the Consular Officer’s requirement for a Panel Physician’s medical report on the child.
The visa application should take at least 24 hours or more as the process requires a rigid review. It is usually not possible to issue the visa to adoptive parents on the same day as the immigrant visa interview.
The Adoption Cost
Neither the Government of Zimbabwe nor the courts charge adoption fees but an international adoption in Zimbabwe should cost a fair amount of sum, ranging from $20,000 to $50,000, which can vary greatly depending on the agency and the services they provide, the expenses for the number of travels, and the amount of time the referral and matching will take including its approval from the Ministry. However, a list of basic range of costs is provided below:
- Home study and parent training – $1,000
- Application and documentation (authentication, translation, notarial) – $2,000-$2,500
- Travel – $9,000-$15,000
- Agency Fees – $4,000-$10,000
- Foreign program fees – $5,000-$10,000
- Post-adoption applications and fees – $1,000-$1,500
- Medical exam of the child for immigration – $220
- Birth certificate – $2
- Passport – $50 for routine processing, $318 for expedited processing, $253 for passport issuance
How can the child acquire the citizenship to the country where he or she is immigrating?
If the adoption process is finalized in the country where prospective adoptive parents are adopting from, and prior to the child’s entry to the adoptive parents’ country, the child automatically acquires citizenship in the country, including that the child is under the age of 18.
Otherwise, only if the adoption process is finalized in the adoptive parents’ country after the child’s entry in it shall the child be able to acquire citizenship. Should complications arise that the child did not qualify to become a citizen in the new country, the adoptive parents should take necessary actions so that the child qualifies as soon as possible such that failure to do so can cause complications in other aspects of the child’s life such as travel opportunities, eligibility for education and education grants, and suffrage.
Prospective adoptive parents have the freedom to select a child they wish to adopt. Can all the children in the orphanages be adopted?
No. Prospective adoptive parents are aware that not all children in the orphanages, children’s homes, or foster care institutes are available for adoption. Like many other countries, some children in these institutions are placed temporarily by their birth parents due to difficulties most especially on financial sustenance. Children who are brought to the institutions are sometimes brought there by their birth parents or families with the intention to bring the child back home when it is possible, and circumstances allow. These cases are that which the birth parents have not fully and legally relinquished their parental rights and are rarely to consent to their children’s adoption.
Children that can be adopted in Zimbabwe are those that are under 18. Is it possible then to adopt an infant?
While there is no minimum age by which a child can be adopted in Zimbabwe, it is not entirely impossible to adopt a newborn or an infant, given that the birth parents or birth mother has legally relinquished or surrendered her parental rights to the child. However, prospective adoptive parents must take note that the adoption process can take a fair amount of time, as stated above, ranging at least three months to a maximum of 7 years due to the bureaucratic procedures or delays within the Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare and the Juvenile Courts. Therefore, by the time the adoption is finalized, the child should have already grown.