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Adoption blues

By - Njoki Chege | December 9th 2012

It is until you take the adopted child home that you start seeing the next frontier of setbacks. Njoki Chege explores the unforeseen challenges

Simon Njoroge was only four years old and in nursery school when the other children in his class refused to play with him because he was apparently ‘mtoto wa kununuliwa’ (a bought child).

Frightened, Simon dared not ask his mother about his origin, but lived through his childhood with questions until his younger brother was brought home.

“I thought it was disrespectful to question my mother over my origin, therefore I kept quiet. But when my younger brother was brought home I knew for sure I was an adopted child.”

Simon and his two siblings (also adopted) lived their childhood in uncertainty, though their mother showered them with love.

She provided everything they needed, loved them unconditionally, but refused to disclose to them that they were adopted.

Society would continue to ostracise them, warning other children against playing with them, but it died down as they grew older.

Things fell apart when Simon’s mother passed on in 2005 without disclosing to them the truth.

“We had problems with some relatives regarding control over the property my mother had left behind,” he says.

While some relatives supported the children, they dared not show it publicly, lest they be told that they were supporting ‘outsiders’.

Three years and a bitter fight later, Simon and his siblings finally gained control over their mother’s property.

Says Simon: “When you grow up knowing you are adopted and your parent doesn’t say anything about it you lose your self-esteem and live with a lot of questions. I think things would have been much easier had our late mother told us the truth from the onset.”

Adoptive parents, Simon reckons, should disclose the true identity of their adopted children at an early age, so that the minors can deal with those issues once and for all.

“It would have been better if I was told at an early age about my origin. I would have dealt with the issue better,” he says.

 Simon’s case is not an isolated one. Many adopted children and adoptive parents are usually faced with    numerous challenges when things fall apart.

Unspoken truth

Parents who have adopted or are considering adoption need to be aware of the plethora of post-adoption challenges that await them.

For long, the process of adoption was deemed lengthy and impossible, but that myth has been banished with the emergence of several organisations that make it easy.

The hard part today is dealing with post-adoption challenges, many of which remain unspoken until you take that child home with you.

Jacqueline Wambui, an administrator at Kenyans to  Kenyans Peace Initiative (KKPI) Adoption Society admits that adoptive parents are bound to face several post-adoption challenges.

Key among these challenges, Jacqueline outlines, is acceptance of that child by the extended family of the adoptive parents.

Ideally, the adoptive parents were seen as breadwinners for their extended families, having supported their nephews, nieces and siblings, as they did not have children of their own.

“That adopted child is now viewed as a threat because the priorities of the adoptive parent will definitely shift from the relatives to the child,” says Jacqueline.

False picture

Jacqueline notes that many parents she has dealt with try to paint a false rosy picture that their extended families have accepted the child.

But relatives are not the only ones who will display venom towards your adopted child.

“Religious leaders too. Some parents will be ex-communicated from church because, apparently, some consider it ungodly. They base their argument on the origin of that child, if is ‘not from God’ then it is considered sinful,” she says.

In many cases, Jacqueline reckons, things start to fall apart when an adoptive parent either dies or becomes incapacitated.

“That is when the truth comes out, especially if the adoptive parents failed to reveal to the child their true identity,”  Jacqueline explains.

So how  can a couple mitigate this?

Openness. Honesty. Truth.

First, adoptive parents must realise that it is a requirement, not an option, to disclose to the adopted child his/her origin.

 Jacqueline offers: “Have as much information as you can about the child, because this will come in handy when telling the child the truth. The earlier you tell the child the truth, the better it is for everyone. But whichever way you choose to disclose, and at whatever age you decide, ensure it does not come from any other person but you.

“Second, re-assure the child of your love and protection so that mean comments from relatives do not damage their self-esteem.

“You cannot control what outsiders say to your child out of spite. But you can protect that child by telling them the truth and making them confident in themselves,” says Jacqueline.

“If you don’t do it, society will do it for you in the most ruthless manner without caring about the psychological effect it will have on the adopted child,” Simon the adoptee warns.

Third and most probably weighty post-adoption challenge is succession and inheritance. 

Lawyer Faith Waigwa, who is also the Chairperson of the National Adoption Committee in Kenya, says there are several legal issues that adoptive parents must be ready to contend with.

Succession and inheritance

 Top on the list is inheritance.  Says Faith: “The society may not perceive the adopted child as having equal rights of inheritance like the biological child. Adopters (parents who have adopted a child) should be able to address this issue.”

The effect of an adoption order is that it terminates the rights and obligations of the biological parent over the adopted child and vests them on  the adoptive parents, the lawyer explains. This, therefore, means that after adoption, an adopted child is recognised in law as having similar and equal rights as a biological child in all aspects.

“Accordingly, an adopter can legally protect their adopted child(ren) by drawing a will/testament as to how they would like their property shared upon their demise,” Faith advises.

The other option is to register a gift deed bequeathing their adopted child(ren) of their inheritance. And that’s not all.

“An adopter should also appoint a loyal, reliable and trustworthy legal guardian for their adopted child. This custodian would take care of the interest of the adopted child in the event of the death of the adopter,” says Faith.

Jacqueline elaborates; “If you have property, the next move after adoption is writing a will to protect the interests of that child.” 



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