Single and young? You can still adopt a child

Wednesday, April 20th, 2022 08:09 | By

Nkirote Muriithi always felt the need to adopt a child. She would share this idea with friends and family, and even though they found it absurd, she didn’t flinch on it. She would often research on the topic and made sure she had basic information on the process. 

Her quest into motherhood began when she conceived her first child while she was 21 years old. “I was overjoyed and thought that this was all I wanted - to be a mother, to bear children of my own. I was sure that I would make the best mother and give my child everything,” she recalls.

But as fate could have it, she lost the pregnancy before she could get to embrace her child. However, she didn’t lose hope, she got pregnant a few years later and this time she was positive that all would be well, but it wasn’t long before she lost her baby. 

At this point, she decided to go ahead with adoption. Since she had done her research, she knew what to do. So last year, she visited an adoption society. “I proceeded with the paper work and made sure I finalised on the required tests and filled in the questions appropriately. The process itself didn’t take so much time, in a span of 10 months I had been matched with a little girl, who I named Misha,” recalls Nkirote who was 32 at the time.

Complete family 

Last year, she brought the girl who was only a few months old home. Her homecoming was something she had been preparing for a long time. “When she first came home, I just wanted to take time to spend time with her so that I could have an easy navigation into motherhood. In a few months, I had already mastered the drill,” she shares.

Shortly after adopting a child, Nkirote met her life partner. Her husband has been helpful in raising the child  - he stepped in as a parent, took his fatherly duty and offered love and support to the child. 

“He loves her and spends quality time with her. He plays with her and even feeds and changes Misha’s diaper. Also, the fact that he is always ready to take care of our daughter while I am away for work is one of the few things that stand out about him,” she says.

She doesn’t regret adopting a child even before she got married, and giving her a complete family after she got married has been her pride. “I have always wanted to have a family of my own and I am grateful that I am able to experience this with the two most amazing people in my life. Misha is now 11 months old,” she says.

While some single and young people may want to adopt a child, sometimes they fail to go ahead fearing there are restrictions. 

Rose Mbanya, an advocate of the High Court, who specialises in family law says that although in Kenya there is an assumption that the adoption process is tedious and long, availability of information has simplified the process. 

In matters concerning adoption or a child in general, the child’s best interests are of paramount importance as set out under Article 53 of the constitution. “Section 4 of the Children’s Act stipulates that in all actions concerning children whether undertaken by public or private welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies should primarily focus on the child’s wellbeing,” she says.

Whilst upholding the best interests of the child, Mbanya says that other factors that must be considered in court when it comes to adoption, is the parental consent of the biological parents of the child if they are alive. Further she says that the consent of a sibling who is over 14 years old is required by law.

“Consent of a parent might, however be dispensed in cases where the parent abandoned the child, neglected or ill-treated the child,” she observes.

Who can adopt?

In Kenya, a child who is over six weeks old and under the age of 18 years and has been declared free for adoption is eligible to be adopted. 

Generally, all adult Kenyan citizens of a sane mind can adopt. The applicant must be at least 25 years old and at least 21 years older than the child. Additionally, people older than 65 years old are not eligible to adopt a child in Kenya. The age limit can be reconsidered if the applicant is related to the child.

“It is a fairly simple process if you follow the right procedure. However there are persons who are not eligible for adoption including foreign applicants, a convict of any sexual offense, immoral behaviour, and unnatural offenses, a gay person and someone of unsound mind under the Mental Health Act,” she explains.

Also, a single parent is legally allowed to adopt a child of similar gender as long as they are economically and socially fit to adopt a child.

“A common misconception is that it is only married couples who are legally allowed to adopt a child. But just to demystify the notion, even single parents can adopt as long as they are of sound mind. The only difference is that they will adopt a child of their gender, but under special circumstances, a single applicant may be permitted to adopt a child of opposite gender,” she says.

One thing that Mbanya gladly notes is unlike in the past, adoption is no longer associated with stigma. 

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