A 2007 study estimated there were at least 250,000 children living and working in the streets of Kenya. More than 60,000 of them are in Nairobi. Adoption agencies have tried to reduce those numbers by finding families for children without parents. But mistaken beliefs about adoption have made it difficult to find homes for children in need.
Kate Irungu has two children, a 10-year-old boy and an eight-year-old girl. She and her husband had dreamed of having a family for eight years. After they got married, they tried and failed to have children of their own. Finally they decided to adopt.
"I think adoption is good because if you cannot get a child, it gives you an opportunity to have one and it gives you the joy of being a parent. I think Kenyans should embrace adoption."
Many people in Kenya have fears and misunderstandings about adoption. That makes it difficult for children who need homes and the groups trying to help them.
Susan Otuoma is the chief executive officer of Little Angels Network, a children's home launched in 2005. Little Angels Network helps families with more than 300 adoptions every year. She says many people in Kenya still do not understand the process of adoption.
"One major one is that adoption is meant for infertile couples, those that are childless who cannot get their own children. It has taken a lot of education to just inform members of the public that even those with their own children can adopt. The other misconception is that adopted children are wayward, it is a belief people just find it mysterious that you can adopt a child not born of yourself."
Ms. Otuoma also dismisses concerns that adoption costs too much for Kenyan families. For adoptions within the country, the fees are about $400.
"There has also been a misconception that adoption is very, very expensive here in Kenya and that it is only meant for the rich people, which is not true because the government has highly regulated the fees and they are highly subsidized."
Kate Irungu says adopted children are not different from other children. Each child brings individual joys and problems to parents.
"It is easier to adopt a young child because you can train his or her character, but I think it is hard when you adopt teenagers or older kids, but all in all adoption has its good side and bad side, just like raising kids in any household whether they are yours or not."
Ms. Otuoma asks families with children of their own to think about adopting. She wants them to open their hearts and homes to more children.
"Our guiding principle is that every child deserves to grow in a family. As much as the institutions will give the best care to the child, we believe that every child is best taken care of in a family set up."
The Kenyan government has expressed concern about the troubles of homeless children. But children's activists say existing programs cannot solve the problems of homeless children. They are the result of larger social problems, such as war, unemployment and poverty, that need to be solved.
In November 2014, the Kenyan Cabinet banned adoption of Kenyan children by foreigners. The action came in response to a United Nations report on human trafficking. The report said Kenya was a source of child trafficking.
In July 2015, the Law Society of Kenya asked the High Court to remove the ban. Law Society of Kenya lawyer Stephen Gitonga said many homeless children were waiting for adoptions that had been in progress last year, when the ban took effect.
I’m Jill Robbins.
Rael Ombuor reported this story for VOA News. Dr. Jill Robbins adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.
Words in This Story
adopt – v. to take a child of other parents legally as your own child
adoption – n. the act or process of adopting someone or something, such as the act or process of adopting a child
infertile – adj. not able to reproduce; not able to produce children
subsidize – v. to help someone pay for something (often used to refer to government or company aid)
Now it’s your turn. What is the attitude toward adoption where you live? Are their groups helping homeless children to find families? Write to us in the comments section.