Adoption in the country has, for a long time, remained an emotive issue.
It has often been steeped in suspicion and matters have not been helped by a moratorium on inter-country adoptions (adoption of a Kenyan child by foreigners who live outside the country) placed by the government.
The objective of the moratorium effected on November 26, 2014, was to enable the government to intervene and conduct a comprehensive audit of the policy and legal frameworks, processes, procedures and players involved in the practice of adoption.
However, concerns raised include lack of public participation before the moratorium was enforced. Several laws targeted at regulating adoption have also raised concerns with some parties claiming there are efforts to lock them out.
Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo argues that, though it is possible to abuse the rights of children when the laws are weak, and that there is need to have better regulations, the same should not be used to muzzle those who want to adopt.
“I am not in support of a process that will punish all organisations. Those trafficking or abusing adoption should be deregistered,” says the legislature.
National Adoption Committee (NAC) chairperson, Wambui Njuguna, raises the issue of low funding from the government to adequately implement activities involving children across the country.
The body has contacted the Ministry of Labour to address this.
Ms Njuguna observes that adoption provides children with the family they need instead of languishing in Charitable Children’s Institutions (CCIs).
However, to ensure that all CCIs operate within the law, she challenges registered CCIs to reach out to those not registered so that they register and operate within the rules.
“Not all institutions dealing with children have been registered with the department of children services. Some children are better off in the street than being put in some of these centres,” she says.
The NAC has also written to the registrar regarding those already registered.
The functions of the committee in the administration of adoptions include formulating the governing policy in matters of adoption, effecting liaison between adoption societies, the government and non-governmental organisations, considering and proposing names of the officers who may serve as guardians and monitoring adoption activities in the country.
Upon enforcement of the moratorium, an expert committee was appointed by the Labour Cabinet secretary to implement it.
In the report presented to President Uhuru Kenyatta in December 2017, the committee recommends that CCIs be shut down immediately and the children be reunited with their families.
It also recommends that the moratorium be upheld because it is the only lifeline for children. It has reduced theft and trafficking of children, the report adds.
The report further states that some parents who have been approved for adoption wait for more than four years before they can get a child.
Eighty-six per cent of these parents require children above one year, which has contradicted popular myth that parents do not desire such an age group.
Association of Charitable Children Institutions of Kenya chairperson, Rev Stephen Ndungu, says it is not wise to demonise all organisations that are helping to look after children in need.
Rev Ndungu says that most people who adopt children discriminate against those living with disabilities and HIV/Aids. On the other hand, some of the international adopters are more compassionate and ready to assist them.
Rev Ndungu says that the proposal to shut down centres and reunite children with their families is not practical.
He laments that the children are unfairly being condemned alongside the CCIs.
“Before speaking about CCIs, those making such recommendations should visit and see what we are doing. Those who know exactly what needs to be done, so that every child can be in the family, should tell it to us,” he says.