Experts in child welfare and adoption matters want a moratorium placed on inter-country adoption made permanent to protect the rights of Kenyan children.
The concerns emanate from the fact that studies have established that inter-country adoption is big business, done at the expense of children.
The Technical Assessment of the Legal Provisions and Practices of Guardianship, Foster Care and Adoption of Children in Kenya of 2008, conducted jointly by the government and Unicef, indicated weaknesses in the legal framework and practices, impacting negatively on adoption.
Foreign adoptions attract as much as Sh700,000 per child as legal fees for lawyers, in addition to charges paid by applicants in accordance with guidelines issued by the Adoption Committee.
The legal fees are way above the amount set in the Advocates Remuneration Order. The children end up being commoditized as there is payment at every stage.
It stated that the industry has an elaborate division of labour with specific roles — Charitable Children’s Institution (CCIs) in producing the children, lawyers for expediting the legal processes, and the Department of Children Services (DCS) for processing the justification reports. Each player gets paid for their roles.
“The assessment was shocked to learn that the focus during the screening of potential adoptive parents pertains to their wealth status, which then is used to peg the charges,” the report reads.
Further, “the actors know each other very well and they know what they are doing. They protect each other very much, such that, for instance, when one questions the mushrooming of CCIs, it is met with points on poverty in Kenya, how communities cannot care for children and such lame excuses. All to justify CCIs since these are the factories of the children being adopted.”
Given the lucrative returns, especially from inter-country adoption, nothing serious is done by the DCS to trace parents of children said to have been abandoned.
Evidence shows that the few cases where the police were adequately involved, with the assistance of parents whose children or grandchildren have disappeared, recorded great success in child or family tracing.
A report presented to President Uhuru Kenyatta in December 2017 by an expert committee appointed to implement the objectives of the moratorium, has recommended, among others, that CCIs be closed down immediately and children reunited with their families.
The expert committee chaired by Ms Lydiah Muiru was appointed by the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Labour, through a gazette notice in February 2015.
Other members of the committee include Scholastica Omondi, Rose Wasike, Joseph Gitau, Callen Masaka and Anthony N. Gitai.
Just like the position held by other experts, the expert committee recommended that the moratorium be upheld because it is the only lifeline for children, and has so far reduced the sale and theft of children.
“Inter-country adoption puts pressure on adoption personnel to provide children, making them to go scouting for children to place in adoption,” the report reads.
In equal strength, it has recommended that adoption be done by professional social workers.
A report of the Commission on the Law of Adoption in 1973 had also emphasised the need to embrace professionalism in adoption of children, but the same has remained a challenge as most social workers, among other personnel in child adoption, do not have the relevant qualifications.
The government had issued a moratorium on November 26, 2014 against all resident and inter-country adoptions (adoption of a Kenyan child by adopters who are not Kenyan citizens and live outside the country), and also cancelled licences for inter-country adoptions.
The objective was to enable the government to conduct a comprehensive audit of the policy and legal framework, processes, procedures, and players involved.
The 2008 Technical Assessment report had further elaborated that there are cases of parents being encouraged through payment to release their children for adoption.
Later, some of these parents have gone to the adoption societies or DCS asking for reunification with their children but, unfortunately, adoption is final.
“It is also emerging that some children are coming back to the adoption societies demanding to know why they were adopted, as the adoptive parents are unable to explain the issues involved,” the 2008 report says, adding, “this is a time bomb …”
A sample of court cases has also revealed the inhuman side of adoption by the adopting parents, the CCIs, and others.
Some affidavits filed in court brought to the fore the determination by some to have the child adopted despite resistance by “poor” parents.
They are plain in their intention; that they want to adopt the child because the parent(s) cannot take care of their own children, and even go further to attack the character of the actual parents who are vulnerable, and whom they “want to assist”.
In others, children are given out for adoption while their families are still searching for them, or without their parents’ consent.
Fear of having Kenya encourage inter-country adoption has also been fortified by the number of children who die in mysterious circumstances at the hands of foreign parents, with the whereabouts of others not known after they leave the country.
Also, the willingness by foreign adopting parents to pay heavily to adopt children raises eyebrows.
There have also been fears that some children end up being sexually abused, or may be used as guinea pigs for scientific and medical experiments.
The report presented to the President last December revealed that there were cases of falsification of documents.
For instance, police letters presented in court indicated different information from the one in the occurrence book.
In some cases, children’s relatives were made to swear affidavits to the effect that the foreign guardian “holds no responsibility for death, injury or loss” that may occur to the child while under his or her custody.
Over the years, cases of children getting lost, stolen, or sold, have become rampant in social places such as hospitals, churches and schools.
Investigations have revealed that at times, once a child has illegally been acquired from the parents, they are labelled abandoned, taken to the police station, later to the children home, and finally taken for adoption.
The whole process is thus sanitised and the child can find a new parent, as the orchestrators of the scandalous act get hefty payments.
Given the rising cases of children disappearing or missing from maternity facilities, with parents contesting the explanations that their children died at birth, experts have called for a DNA data bank at maternity facilities for verification.
The DNA bank should be for all new mothers so that those whose children are said to have died can verify such claims.
The mothers’ DNA should also be taken for matching with those of the dead babies being disposed.