My interest was aroused sometime ago when I began noticing black children in care of white parents here in Nairobi. You see these children, dusty looking and unkempt in the company of suspicious looking adults which leaves one wondering, how is this in the best interest of the child?

Have you ever seen a white child with black adoptive parents? Or a white child with a Chinese family, or Indian or any other ethnicity? Does such exist at all? If it does, it must be the exception. Just think of it, how would a black family even go about adopting a white child, even in places where you would expect to see such, Europe, US, Canada even in Asia. It is not at all common. One can hardly come across it; and why not? Why can’t a black family adopt a white child? That would be a taboo, even now, and best left alone. When you actively begin to consider why you can hardly see a white child in a black family, then most of the issues of racism, discrimination, stereotypes and poverty comes to play.

Adoption policies across the board, Europe, US , Canada etc, stipulates that like must remain with like in a manner of speaking. That it must be in the best interest of the child to be in a familiar surroundings. A placement of a child must seek to enhance and entrench the child’s cultural values and orientation, background etc. So, in a manner of speaking, adoption policies of such nations have pretty much locked up cross adoption of white child to black families.

So, one must wonder, how did this trend of black children in white families begin? Its seems to be the fashion now. Using Kenya, especially Nairobi as an example, one can hardly move a yard without encountering one solitary black child in the company of a white adult. So one can’t help but wonder, what is going on? How is this happening? How are these adoption agencies and organizations doing it? What is the national policy on adoption? Especially on international adoption, where the child will be taken out of its context. What are the vetting systems in place for vetting these foreign adoptive parents? Who goes back to their country of origin to assess their suitability and {…} given the high perversity levels one reads about. How is this arrangement of placing a black child in a white family in the best interest of the child?

One gets the idea and even see it in our context of this colonial mentality at play; the benevolence of the white to the black. Without asking the right questions or thinking the required thoughts, which is “how will this child fare in such a foreign context? What good will it do the child to be at the receiving end of all manner of racism, discrimination and perversion. This sad reality seems to elude our thinking. What kind of follow up exists to check on these children after they have departed the shores of Kenya? The concerns are numerous.

We have to ask ourselves, is it that there is such a shortage of children to be adopted in these foreign nations? Is it that Kenya cannot accommodate and care for these children? More importantly, who are these children being offered up for adoption? Who scouts for them and how do they get put up for adoption? What is the role of the ministry involved? In the light of human trafficking and child kidnappings, how do they ensure the safety of the children and safely vouch for the legitimacy of the adoption? Who are the watchdogs monitoring these organisations and agencies in the process of adoption to ensure that due diligence and process is in place and observed? Clearly, Africa in general and Kenya in particular is easy pickings, such environments where lack of policies, corruption, ignorance and apathy rules can cause an abusive situation to thrive.

There is the notion regarding Africans that they don’t adopt as it is against their culture. Also, generally they have many children that they don’t have the means to support them, let alone take on someone else’s child. So what we have is an abundance of abandoned children, needing a home, love and care. So, if some white folks then decide to “help” us by taking some of these children off our hands, should we not be grateful? But is it as simple as that? Are they helping? Or is it fulfilling their own need and more importantly what kind of need is that?

There is a need to curb this situation and the relevant government department/ministry in charge of such affairs should wake up to its responsibilities. Should not such realities/environments that produces these situations be given due consideration and come up with ways of addressing the problem, rather than turning a blind eye.

When these children are taken off to foreign lands, who knows what becomes of them? What safeguards are implemented that ensure that these children are kept aware of who they are and where they come from? It is integral that black children adopted by white families, living in foreign countries are not raised as white children, denying them of their heritage. It is the duty of the adoptive family to raise them rooted in the knowledge of who they really are. The meaning of their kinky hair and dark skin should not be an unspoken secret but rather they should be raised in the recognition of their difference, comfortable in their identity but at the same time celebrating this identity. Such openness and acceptance will avert later identity crisis and feelings of displacement and disconnect.

Not all things that claim to be helpful are indeed of any help. Government and society needs to find ways of addressing its issues. Some adoptive cases have happy endings but in the scope of the matter, what percentage is that? Most end up in such a terrible state that it would have been in the best interest of the child to remain in familiar surroundings.

This is not an advocacy against adoption, but a call for a more careful consideration of the present situation and our seeming readiness to hand over African children to foreigners. The need to review and overhaul the adoption process cannot be overstated. Introduction of proactive legislation that safeguards the interest of the child should be the priority, government authorities and relevant agencies can consider fostering of these children by locals with some support.

Adoption itself is not the issue, but the laxity about it. Rigorous vetting protocols, follow up interviews, social workers and in depth security checks should be mandatory for both locals and foreigners.

Let’s look inwards before we cast our children out. 

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