Foreigner adoption ban sparks mixed reactions

Stakeholders on children welfare issues raise concerns.

In Summary

• The cabinet want the ban to take immediate effect.

• A similar directive was issued in 2014 and it is not clear what successes it achieved

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto chair a past Cabinet meeting at State House, Nairobi.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto chair a past Cabinet meeting at State House, Nairobi.
Image: FILE

No foreign national will be allowed to adopt a Kenyan child, for now, the Cabinet has declared.

A special Cabinet meeting chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House made the decision yesterday. The ban takes effect immediately.

The Cabinet also directed the Labour ministry to formulate a new policy to regulate the adoption of children by foreign nationals in the country.

The ban comes amid the drama involving Baby Kiano whose legal guardians ran into conflict with the Children Welfare Society of Kenya in April this year. 

Baby Kiano was subsequently violently taken away from his guardians.  He was, however, returned to the American couple on Wednesday without any condition. 

There was a similar ban by the state in 2014.  It is not clear what became of the moratorium as the statement announcing yesterday's decision was devoid of details. 

However, stakeholders on children welfare issues have raised concerns over the decision of the Cabinet, with some terming it a knee-jerk reaction. 

Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo, a child rights advocate and a former executive director of the CRADLE, a children welfare organisation told the Star the ban is ill-advised.

"I don't think it is very well advised because a person who was originally Kenyan but has ceased citizenship can be considered a foreigner," she said.

The lawmaker, who at one time sat in the Children Welfare Society of Kenya adoption advisory committee said the ban is faulty.

Odhgiambo said it would bar even those with good intentions from help deserving children. 

"It is actually like we are shooting ourselves on the foot. There are many needy cases that can be helped by genuine people, including foreigners who want to adopt," she said.

Odhiambo said the Cabinet policy cannot supersede the Children Act which allows for the adoption of Kenyan children by foreign nationals. 

Lawyer Dantan Omari said that while the Cabinet has the right intentions, the fact that there are many needy children on the streets is an indictment on its ability to care for them.

"The law requires that the interest of the child override any other intervention. The Act allows for adoption, hence the ban by the government may not mean much," he added.

Suba Churchill, the coordinator of the National Civil Society Congress criticised the ban as only serving to suggest that foreigners do not mean well other than the locals.

"The government should instead adopt an effective mechanism of monitoring welfare of those kids that have been adopted," he said.

I have seen many cases where children adopted even by relatives end up living in misery, he said. 

The Cabinet also directed the ministry to streamline operations of the Child Welfare Society of Kenya and those of children homes in the country.

Child Welfare Society of Kenya chairperson Joyce Ngugi said the ban was welcome as 'it will be more protective to children and save them from trafficking.'

The CWSK oversees adoption of children. President Uhuru is the society's patron, according to its website. 

Ngugi said the agency is regularising all the children's homes in the country and will retain only those in good condition.

The agency has been the subject of adverse publicity in the recent past with the latest  KTN expose showing most children's homes are in squalid state. 

(edited by O. Owino)