A child to call your own

Datin Elya Lim Adnan (left) and Kim Razali of Orphancare.

Laila (not her real name), two, was adopted soon after birth. Her adoptive mother Melissa (not her real name) found out she was available for adoption from a midwife. She insisted on the proper documentation for Laila from birth to adoption, but doesn’t plan to tell her daughter she was adopted.

“Laila is my daughter through and through. I did the necessary to ensure the adoption process was done properly, and the birth mother can’t claim her back,” says Melissa.

She initially planned to adopt another child when Laila was older, but is worried it’ll bring up unwanted questions from her daughter.

“Perhaps I’ll just have Laila. And that’s enough,” she says.

Melissa has never thought of adopting an older child, because she says they come with emotional baggage.

Unfortunately, that’s how most people think too, and they opt for newborns or infants, preferring to start on a clean slate. Therefore, the older a child gets, the slimmer are his/her chances of being adopted.

“Every child needs a home. I want to urge more Malaysians to be open to adopting older kids. We try to place older kids who are in the orphanages run by the Social Welfare Department (JKM), but it’s very difficult,” says Orphancare’s Parents Committee coordinator Kim Rozali.

“We were set up with the main intention of placing orphans, and, subsequently, with the baby hatch to give desperate mothers a chance to give their babies up for adoption instead of abandoning them,” says Kim.

There are 2,600 couples registered with Orphancare, and they have placed 67 babies with families, including 13 from orphanages. The children are newborns to 13-year-olds.

Adoption can be a daunting process for couples. Apart from the procedures involved (see sidebar below on how to adopt), it is a big decision to welcome a child into your family.

Potential adoptive parents are reviewed by Orphancare staff for suitability. They answer a questionnaire, to assess how the rest of their family feel about the adoption, the environment that the child will be brought up in, the couple’s ability to provide for the child, the psychological and personality makeup of the couple, childcare and parenting experience, and so on.

If a baby is available for adoption, it could take just two weeks to finalise the fostering process. There are many parents out there who want a child, says Kim. She is saddened by recent news of baby dumpings and deaths, urging the public to be aware that they can bring the baby to the hatch instead of resorting to desperate measures.

“We also have young unwed mothers walking into the centre and handing their babies over to us.

“The majority of our babies are Malay. So far, we’ve also had five Filipino babies, about 10 Indonesian babies, five South African babies, and on the rare occasion, a Chinese and an Indian baby,” she says.

In Malaysia, a Muslim baby can only be adopted by Muslim parents.

Although there are proper procedures in place for adoption in this country, most people seem unaware, or perhaps unwilling to go through the right channels.

Datin Elya Lim Adnan, who is the Orphancare government relations coordinator, says that adopting children is a practice that has been in our society for a long time.

“The steps are there. The information is clearly stated in JKM’s website,” she says.

But there will be people who opt to bypass the bureaucracies. They seek out “agents” who know where to procure babies for them for a fee. Syndicates that sell babies were recently in the news, and the couples who used their services had their babies taken away from them.

Some couples also adopt babies informally from their extended families, or within their communities.

Kim implores Malaysians to do it by the book.

“When you go through dubious channels, you never know what lies ahead. What if the birth certificate was forged? When it comes time to do identification cards and passports, you will run into trouble,” she says.

Moving forward, Kim and Elya hope to match more parents with children who need loving homes. They continue to advocate the adoption and fostering of older orphans.

Most people think only of adoption, but fostering is also another option they can explore. With fostering, they can provide stability and love for children instead of letting them languish in orphanages and children’s homes. It’s about giving a home for a child who needs one.

For more information on adopting, visit www.orphancare.org.my or www.jkm.gov.my. Orphancare is located at 6, Lorong SS1/24A, Kampung Tunku, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. It can be reached at (03) 7876-1900.

How to adopt

Orphancare works with the Social Welfare department (JKM) on the adoption process. Every couple who registers their interest to adopt is also listed on the department’s database. Adoption requests are dealt with on a first come first served basis.

Registering to adopt

Prospective parents register online or fill in a form at Orphancare. Their details will be entered into an online database.

They are then called in for an interview by Orphancare. Adoption interviews are done every Saturday from 10am-2pm, for a maximum of 12 couples each time. Three sets of the information gained from the interviews are sent to JKM to be kept in their database, and one set remains at Orphancare.

The couples then wait for a baby or child to become available.

During the interview, they will need to bring their passport photos, identification cards, marriage certificate, three months’ payslips and a health report on general health and fertility.

Adoption process of a baby with proper documentations

Step 1
A set of prospective parents is identified.
An officer from Orphancare brings the biological mother to do the birth certificate for the baby, usually with a name given by the adoptive parents. The birth certificate will have the biological mother’s name on it.

Step 2
The officer brings the biological mother to the lawyer to sign a statutory declaration that she is willing to give the baby up for adoption.

Step 3
The adoptive parents also sign a statutory declaration to adopt the baby. They will bear any medical bills incurred by the biological mother when she gives birth.

Step 4
Adoptive parents can now take baby home for fostering, which is two years for Muslim babies and three to six months for non-Muslim babies. The parents need to find the local JKM nearest to them to inform them of this, and the local JKM will report to the JKM headquarters. During the fostering period, officers from JKM and Orphancare will check on the child and parents.

Step 5
After the fostering period is complete, JKM will issue an offer letter to the parents to officially adopt the child. With this letter and the statutory declaration signed by the biological mother, the parents will go to Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara (JPN) to get an adoption certificate (sijil anak angkat) for Muslim babies, or a birth certificate with the adoptive parents’ name on it for non-Muslim babies. The biological mother’s name will be taken out.

Adoption process if the baby is stateless

Step 1
When a baby is placed inside the hatch without documents, he will be considered stateless. If the prospective parents agree to adopt this child, Orphancare will file a police report. They will then take the baby for a medical checkup. With the police and medical reports, Orphancare informs JKM of the adoptive parents intention to adopt.

Step 2
Orphancare, together with the adoptive parents go to court to file papers for fostering. They have to go to two court hearings for this purpose. Once the judge agrees to the fostering, the parents are allowed to take the baby back. The fostering period is two years for Muslim babies, and three to six months for non-Muslim babies.

Step 3
After the fostering period, the court will give the baby an official birth certificate.

Step 4
As the baby is stateless, the parents will have to apply for citizenship for the baby, which can take years.

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