Overview of the HANCI/MAPS Investigation
Help a Needy Child in Sierra Leone (HANCI-SL) is a local, child focused, non-religious, non-governmental, non political organisation, founded in 1994 and registered with relevant government ministries, including: the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development; the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children Affairs; and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. It operates in all four regions of the country. Over the years, the organization has supported over 8,000 children and families. We are currently working with very close to 14,692 beneficiaries including 150 teachers going through formal training programmes.
Since 2004 HANCI-SL has been working with boys and girls affected by the Sierra Leone civil war and their families by reintegrating them back into their communities and supporting extremely poor families in rural communities towards attaining self sufficiency. In the last four years, HANCI-SL has shifted its focus to work with children who are no longer directly affected by the war in terms of stigma and rejection but might be suffering the indirect consequences of its impact, particularly poverty and the breakdown of traditional family and community support structures.
HANCI-SL works with boys and girls (some babies) that live and work on the streets of the capital and district headquarter towns. In rural areas HANCI-SL works closely with primary and secondary schools to improve on the quality of education through rehabilitation of schools and training of teachers. In particular HANCI-SL seeks to address the situation of vulnerable children through access to basic education and retention in school.
During the period 1994 the organisation came in contact with Maine Adoption Placement Service (MAPS), an adoption centre based in the state of Maine in the United States of America. MAPS is a well established and codified adoption centre that focused on international adoption. We entered into a partnership with MAPS which led to the installation of the Child Survival Centre for international adoption located at 3 Mission Road in Makeni.
Those who took their children to 3 Mission Road were those who opted for international adoption. The families were registered and the social history of their wards were taken down by HANCI social workers, particularly John Gbla; after the registration process, the parents and HANCI Programme Manager Henry Abu went to the Ministry of Social Welfare regional office in Makeni where they were interviewed by the probation officer Mr. Abdul Aziz Kamara and later to the Makeni Magistrate Court with the intention of establishing parental consent and to obtain a Supervision Court Order.
Initially there were thirty-three children for international adoption at the centre but only twenty-nine were eventually adopted by MAPS. The reduction was due to the fact that a biological parent decided to remove their four children from the process.
From this point, my organisation hired the service of a solicitor, Fio Chrispin Edwards Esq., who applied to the Social Development Officer at the Social Ministry, Mr. Jawara, for our solicitor to be granted permission for the process to be looked into by the High Court. At High Court, senior justices including the current Chief Justice looked at the matter and granted unequivocal permission for HANCI to handle international adoption on behalf of the children and their families.
HANCI fully facilitated the adoption process and saw the departure of fifteen children from Lungi International Airport in 1998 whilst, for the remaining fourteen, the adoption process was initially facilitated by HANCI but later completed by MAPS with Charity International acting as their local partner. This was due to the fact that HANCI had called off the partnership with MAPS that year in order to fully concentrate on other existing partnerships.
Following the end of the war the biological parents of these children mobilized and reported to the Family Support Unit of the Sierra Leone Police (FSU), the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the court of Sierra Leone alleging that Dr. R.F. Kargbo, the then Executive Director of HANCI, and two others had trafficked their children without their consent. On this ground, the three were charged on twenty-three counts of child trafficking. In all of these allegations, they were not found guilty on any count and were therefore acquitted and charged.
It was at this point that the commission was set by the President to further investigate the HANCI/MAPS adoptions, purely in order to establish whether parental consent had been granted. HANCI is committed to fully and wholeheartedly support the police in their investigation.
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