November was Adoption Awareness month. Adoptive families are celebrated because they provide the children with the same emotional, legal, and kinship benefits as biological children. Adoptive families offer children the opportunity to be raised in a loving, stable home. Adoption allows caregivers the opportunity to become parents or grow their family by adding a child to their own family.
Positive conversations with adopted children can make a big difference in their lives. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognises a child’s right to family life and, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents or, where applicable, by members of the extended family or community.
The UN General Assembly resolution on rights of the child 2019 recognized and prioritized family as the fundamental group in society and the natural environment for the development and wellbeing of all its members, including children. Children are the most important group to care for. A child should grow up in a loving, happy, and understanding family environment in order to reach their full potential.
Sadly, 7.5 million children all over the world live in charitable children’s institutions, commonly known as children’s homes or orphanages, yet 80 per cent to 90 per cent of these children have a living parent or known relatives. In Kenya, an estimated 45,000 children live in charitable children’s institutions for various reasons such as the loss of a parent or primary caregiver, poverty at home, sickness and disability, violence, abuse, and neglect.
Some communities perceive life in a children’s home as “good” because the children have better meals, housing, and opportunities for schooling. Yet families play a critical role in a child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development that a children’s institution cannot give. The government through the National Council of Children’s Services is spearheading care reforms to promote the best interest of the child to ensure that children are cared for in families and communities.
The Directorate of Children’s Services has developed guidelines for alternative family care in Kenya that determine where to place a child if they are not in the care of their parents. The guidelines outline coordination and service delivery, with guiding principles such do not harm and the best interest of the child to guide placement and reintegration into their families. The Children’s Bill 2021 affirms that the removal of a child from the care of the family should be a measure of last resort and should, whenever possible, be for the shortest possible duration.
The Family Division of the High Court of Kenya published an Adoption Process Simplified document in 2020 to increase awareness about adoption. The government, civil society, academia, and communities must all work together to support families in order to help them nurture their children. The family strengthening approach should be holistic and supported by a legislative framework.
It is possible for all children to be provided with a loving, stable, and protective environment in their families. Domestic adoption is a permanent and crucial home for children who have failed to integrate with their biological families.
A family isn’t made from blood, it is made from love.