Family Law

Child Adoption in Tanzania

The idea of adoption is misunderstood by many people, especially in Tanzania, where it is typically viewed as a burden given the current state of the economy. However, adopting children is a way to give them a better upbringing; it offers children the chance to reach their potential in a stable, loving and permanent home. When a couple adopts a child, it is regarded as a blessing since it is one of the selfless and rewarding act of kindness.

This article will walk us through the adoption process, Tanzania’s adoption laws, who can adopt, the necessary paperwork, and the results of adoption.


Main Laws Governing Adoption in Tanzania

  • The Law of Child Act Cap 13, R.E. 2019
  • Adoption of Children Act Cap 335 R.E. 2002
  • Foster Care Placement Regulations G.N. No.153, 2012

Before getting into the procedures of adoption, we firstly need to understand what adoption is, who can adopt, and what are the criteria for one to be fit to adopt.

The act of creating a relationship between individuals who are not biologically related is termed as Adoption. The rights of the child’s birth parents are ended when the child is adopted, creating a legal bond that lasts forever.

The laws have provided for persons who are eligible to adopt as follows:

As a primary condition, persons who can adopt must be aged twenty-five years and at least twenty-one years older than the child, and these persons can be;

  • A husband and wife
  • Father or mother of the child alone or jointly with their spouse
  • A single woman who must be a citizen of Tanzania
  • A relative of the child
  • A single male (can adopt if the child is his son or where the court is satisfied that it is in the child’s best interest)
  • Foreigners who have resided in Tanzania for at least three consecutive years

Procedures for Adoption in Tanzania

Prior to an official request for adoption by the prospective parents, the child must be kept in foster care under such prospective parents for not less than three months. Before that can happen, one must undergo a procedure as more detailed below.

  1. Application to the Department of Social Welfare

The Department of Social Welfare is as a unit or administrative authority in the local government that is responsible for delivering child protection.

The Applicant(s) is required to make an application to the Commissioner for social welfare. After the application has been received by the Commissioner within seven days, the Commissioner shall instruct a Social Welfare Officer to undertake an assessment of the applicant(s) with a view of establishing the suitability of the applicant(s) to provide a caring home for the child. The assessment includes several factors of which a few will be highlighted below.

The assessment includes but not limited to the following:

  • Paying visits to the applicant(s) home in order to assess whether the home conditions are suitable for a child.
  • Conducting meetings with the applicant(s) in order to assess whether they are likely to meet the requirements of fostering a child.
  • Ascertaining views of any children resident in the applicant(s)’ home regarding the foster care placement.
  • Obtaining Health report(s) from any government medical hospital or any certified medical officer that the applicant(s) residence is not suffering from any mental illness likely to affect the child.
  • Obtaining Criminal record report(s) from the police officer in charge of the police station where the applicant(s) resides, that no person in the applicant(s)’ household has been convicted of offences related to child exploitation, sexual abuse against child or any other related offences rendering it undesirable for the child to associate with that person.

Upon completion of the assessment, the Social Welfare Officer shall submit to the Commissioner a recommendation and a report within sixty days from the date of the application.

  1. Referees

The Social Welfare Officer, in order to determine the suitability of the applicant(s) to adopt a child, will be required to provide names and contacts of three referees who have known the applicant(s) for at least three years. One of the said referees must be a close relative and the other two immediate neighbours, whereby all must be certified by the ward / village executive officer.  The references should be in writing and should state on the character and suitability of the applicant(s) to be able to adopt a child.

In case the applicant(s) is employed, a written reference from his/her employer will also be required.

  1. The Home-study

The home-study is usually done through interviews and home visits. The purpose of home-study is for the Social Welfare Officer to assure that the applicant is of good physical, mental, emotional and financially stable to take good care of the child and to satisfy the marital status in case the applicants are couples.

Several interviews will be conducted by the Social Welfare Officer with the family members of the applicant(s), and at least one home visit to the applicant(s) is done by the Social Welfare Officer.

  1. Approval, Registration and Child Identification

On completion of the foster care application the Social Welfare Officer will submit the necessary documents to the Commissioner, and he/she shall assess the application and give remarks and he can either approve or reject the application within ninety days from the date of receiving the application. On the approval of the application the Commissioner shall register the applicant. The Social Welfare Officer will then proceed to identify children who are eligible for adoption and who have met the criteria of the said adoptive parents.

Here one may ask themselves if the child is selected for the prospective adoptive parent by the Social Welfare Officer; the answer is no. What the Social Welfare Officer does is identify children who are eligible for adoption that meet the criteria of the prospective adoptive parent(s), and then both the Social Welfare Officer and prospective adoptive parent(s) will work together to identify a child who is best suited for the prospective adoptive family.

  1. Certificate of Abandonment and Family Consent.

After the selection procedure is completed, the Social Welfare Officer has a duty to obtain information from the police department that will confirm whether the child has any living relatives, where there are no any living relative the police will issue a Certificate of Abandonment. In circumstances where family members of the child are alive and located, one will be required to obtain a formal written consent from the relatives.

It is worth noting that in Tanzania, the chances of adopting a child of below six months are very limited.

  1. Foster Care Placement.

Upon the identification the child to the prospective adoptive parents, the child will be under foster care for a period of three months, during the foster care period the Social Welfare Officer will continue to pay visits to the child and the foster parents for supervision purposes and on visitation the Social Welfare Officer will be required to meet the child privately in order to ascertain the child’s view about their placement, care and treatment. The officer will then prepare a written report stating in detail the observations as to the child’s welfare, progress and conduct.

  1. Application to Adopt

Once the foster care placement duration has lapsed, the foster parents / prospective adoptive parents will be required to prepare an application for adoption referring it to the District Social Welfare Officer and upon approval of such application, the District Social Welfare Officer will write a report and recommendations that will be submitted to the Commissioner of Social Welfare and when approved one can proceed to petition for adoption in the appropriate court of law.

  1. Petition for Adoption

In this stage, one will be required to engage an advocate so that he/she can assist in the petition procedures. Petition for adoption order is made to the High Court of the United Republic of Tanzania and in case of an open adoption (adoption by a relative of the child), the petition is made to the Resident Magistrate Court or the District Court.

Documents required for Adoption

  • Applicant/s copies of Identification Cards this includes passport
  • Petitioner’s birth certificate
  • Child’s birth certificate
  • Study home report prepared by an authorized social welfare officer
  • Recommendations from authorized social welfare officer
  • Marriage certificates incase it’s a couple
  • Proof of residency like utility bills
  • Police clearance certificate
  • Medical clearance certificates
  • Proof of financial capacity
  • Consent from birth parents or surviving relatives of the child

The appointed advocate will lodge the above documents in court and when all the legal procedures are complete, a court order will be obtained thereafter procedures to obtain Adoption Certificate shall follow.

  1. Adoption Certificate

After obtaining the adoption court order from the respective court of law, the following procedure will be to obtain the Adoption Certificate. The said Certificate is obtained through the Registration, Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency (RITA) whereby the adoption order will be registered by the Registrar-General who maintains a register called the Adopted Children Register which contains all particulars of the adoption. The procedure to obtain the Certificate include the submission of the court order from the respective court of law to the Registrar- General; surrender of birth certificate of the adopted child; and payment of the requisite fees for the Adoption Certificate.

Duration of Adoption Process

One’s patience is required during the adoption process, as the process may take up to 6 months from the start to its finalization.

Adoption by a Foreigner

In Tanzania, foreign adoption is legal. Our governing laws as listed hereinabove, specifically section 74(1) of the Law of Child Act of 2019 and regulation 5(1)(d) of the Foster Care Placement Regulations G.N. No.153, recognize and outline the requirements for an international adoption in Tanzania.

Conditions for a Foreigner to Adopt a Child in Tanzania

  • He/she has resided in Tanzania for at least three consecutive years
  • Fostered the child for a period of three months under the supervision of a social welfare officer
  • No criminal records against the foreigner
  • He/she is recommended by the social welfare officer from his country of origin that is suitable to adopt a child
  • The foreigner’s country of origin recognizes the Tanzanian adoption order

When one has met all the above outlined conditions, he/she can proceed with the adoption procedures as explained above, which include, a background check of the foreign applicant(s) by a social welfare officer who will thereafter submit a social investigation report to assist the court in considering the application for adoption.

It is worth noting that, if it so happens a foreigner wishes to take the child out of Tanzania after adoption, the law orders that one should notify the Commissioner of Social Welfare in writing within thirty days before departure of the parent and adopted child from the country, failure to do so one will be liable for conviction to a fine or imprisonment or to both as may be applicable.

Effects of Adoption

Immediately after the adoption order is granted, the biological parental rights, duties, liabilities and obligations cease while the adoptive parent assume such parental rights, duties, liabilities and obligations to the child.


Every parent adopts for a variety of reasons, and the adoption process may even seem hectic to others, but the end result is rewarding.

Author: Kija Benjamin, Legal Officer


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