Our Zambian Adoption

Adoption Day at Court

Please note that as of July 14, 2014, the U.S. will no longer allow adoptions that are completed independently without an adoption agency. Please see the State Department website information HERE

I have started getting requests for information about our adoption in Zambia. I want to encourage those that would desire to bring orphans into their families – especially to those that would special needs and older children, as those are the ones that need forever families the most! However, anyone embarking on an adoption journey in Zambia should know that it can be a long, sometimes painful, and fairly unpredictable process. Sometimes, things don’t go smoothly or take much longer than anticipated. Patience and a good sense of humor can go a long way in making the journey more pleasant. Because of his special needs, our adoption of Nathaniel was slightly easier than some and we finished in 5 months time from identification to Zambian finalization (plus an additional month or so for US finalization). However, I know other families that had to be in Lusaka for much longer finalizing their adoptions of their typically developing children. Others were not able to complete their adoptions because of the length of time. Like I said, it can be unpredictable.

The information that I share here is what I have gained from our experience and what is available from the Zambian Adoption US State Department Website. Of course, I can in no way guarantee (nor I am liable) that any of this information is valid or hasn’t changed from when we were completing our adoption process. However, I hope it is helpful as a guide. If you are adopting from Zambia and find something in this process that needs to be updated, please let me know!

Here are the highlights of adopting from Zambia:

Basic Information:

  • Currently, there are NO United States adoption agencies working with the Zambian government so everything is done independently. It is rumored that the Zambian government is currently piloting adoption programs with Canada and Sweden.
  • As of August 2012, 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 easier to identify a child. The adoption system is currently being revamped with a recent change in government, as of September 2012.

Adoptive Parent Requirements:

  • You may be married or single to adopt.
  • You must be at least 25 years of age. If married, at least 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” in-country 3 month fostering period. However, this may be waived by the High Court Magistrate for certain cases (special needs, etc.). The total time in country is likely to be longer than 3 months, due to paperwork and other issues.

Approximate cost of adoption from Zambia:

  • Airfare – $2000 round trip for 1 adult, and $1200 for one way child
  • Fostering fee – 50,000 kwacha (approximately U.S. $12.00);
  • Adoption court fee – 110,000 kwacha (approximately U.S. $24.00);
  • Zambian passport fee – 500,000 kwacha (approximately U.S.$111.00);
  • Registration/certificate of adoption – 105,000 kwacha (approximately U.S. $24.00);
  • Costs as may be determined by the court – 200,000 kwacha (approximately U.S. $45.00);
  • Police clearance application fee – 50,000 kwacha (approximately U.S. $10.00); U.S. based prospective adoptive parents may be able to present their U.S. police clearance in lieu of this requirement;
  • Attorney’s fees – 5,000,000 to 25,000,000 kwacha (approximately U.S. $1,000-$5,000);
  • Lodging, Accommodation, and Transportation for 3 months – $4500.

Approximate Total: $9200 (Via)

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 in Lusaka. An American homestudy and USCIS 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 Social Welfare. 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.

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 13 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 assessment 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 highly recommended but not required
  • Case will be presented before a magistrate at the High Court

7. Apply for Zambian birth certificate, adoption decree, and passport

  • The Social Welfare office will provide you with letters to obtain the birth certificate, adoption decree, and passport
  • You MUST have a copy of the social workers National Registration Card (NRC) to get the child’s passport

8. US immigration approval at US Embassy in Lusaka

9. Come home! 🙂

Additional Resources:

  • Our Lawyer in Zambia:

Muleza and Associates

Lawyer: Chad Muleza

+260 211 227 376 or +260 211 227 407