The government has sought to streamline laws for the adoption of children, opening doors for foreigners to assume parental responsibility over eligible young ones.
A new bill sponsored by Majority leader Amos Kimunya (Kipipiri MP) seeks to allow children to be adopted by their kinsmen, dual citizenship holders and foreign nationals.
For foreign nationals, adoption would be allowed whether they are residents or non-residents of Kenya, hence would be allowed to take away children to their countries.
This will be as long as the respective countries recognise the adoption orders issued by the Kenyan courts.
The Children Bill, 2021, says the High Court may, on an application, make an order authorising an applicant to adopt a child.
“All proceedings shall be heard and determined in chambers and the identity of the child and the applicants shall be kept confidential,” the bill reads.
In the new dispensation, a child will be eligible for adoption if an orphan has no guardian or caregiver able and willing to take care of them.
A child who has been abandoned or whose parents' or guardian's whereabouts cannot be traced within a period of one year will also be eligible.
Regulations would also be drawn to provide for parents to willingly offer their biological children for adoption.
“Any child who is a resident within Kenya may be adopted whether or not the child is a Kenyan citizen, or was born in Kenya,” the bill reads.
An application would be allowed by a sole applicant or two spouses making such requests to the court jointly.
Persons below 25 years of age will not be granted orders to adopt children, so will be persons above the age of 65 years.
“The court shall not make an adoption order in any case unless the applicant, or one of the applicants in a joint application, is more than 21 years older than the child,” the bill reads.
The age caps will, however, not apply in any case where a sole applicant or one of the joint applicants is the mother, father or relative of the child.
“The court shall not make an adoption order in favour of a sole male applicant unless the applicant is a blood relative of the child.”
A single female applicant will also not be allowed to adopt a male child, and so will be the case of a sole foreign female applicant – for any sexes.
Adoption would not be approved for parents who are of unsound mind, as defined by the Mental Health Act, as well as those incapable of exercising proper care and guardianship of a child.
Persons who have been charged and convicted of serious crimes by a competent court would also be denied adoption orders.
For joint applicants, the bill provides that orders would only be granted if the applicants are married to each other, the same for a sole male applicant or sole foreign applicant.
There shall be a committee to be known as the National Adoption Committee, which shall be established by the Labour Cabinet Secretary as the central authority on matters of adoption.
“A person shall not commence any arrangements for the adoption of a child unless the National Adoption Committee has declared the child free for adoption.”
Children would also not be a subject of adoption proceedings before they attain the age of six weeks, with the law being tightened that “an applicant shall not preselect a prospective adoptive child.”
“A person, including a parent, guardian or adoption society, shall not, prior to the making of an adoption order, entrust a child to the care, possession or control of any person not qualified to adopt a child,” the bill reads.
It proposed a fine of Sh1 million or three years in jail or both for violations of the law guiding the adoption of children.
Written consent from a parent or guardian of the child or any person who is liable by virtue of any order or agreement to contribute to the maintenance of the child will be required prior.
Where only one spouse applies, the consent of the other spouse would be required, so would be the case of a child who has attained the age of 10 years. Edited by A.N By Moses Odhiambo, The Star