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The initiative to hold the first adoption Conference in East Africa was put forth by a Kenyan consortium bringing together local Non- Governmental Organizations whose main focus is the care and protection of children within the society. These organizations include:- Child survival Centre, Little Angels Network, Kenya Children’s Homes, Kenyans for Kenyans Peace Initiative Adoption Society, Buckner Kenya, Kenya Society of Care Leavers (KESCA) and Child in Family Focus, Kenya.

The Child Survival Centre has been holding a yearly event dubbed ”The East African Orphan Summit“, a conference that has attracted participants from the East African Region. This year, the organization reached out to other child focused organizations above to partner and make it a bigger advocacy event concentrating on child adoption and more specifically creating awareness and demystifying the myths surrounding adoptions.


Adoption is an ancient arrangement spoken of in the Bible. Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Babylonians all had adoption systems with the most notable being the case of Moses among the Egyptians as stipulated in the Holy Bible.

The concept of adoption was not legally recognized in traditional African societies. Transfers of children to substitute parents had however occurred informally whereby the greater percentage of the older generation was raised by their grandparents and uncles. A child belonged to the society. Truth be told, these informal arrangements were economically motivated; families could do better with the additional child labour both in farms and at the house. Changing social dynamics and economic systems have however disrupted this arrangement.

The need for formal adoption became greater and Massachusetts took the lead in 1851 by enacting the first Adoption Statute. The Statute required judicial approval, consent of the child’s parent and or guardian, and a finding that the prospective adoptive family has sufficient ability to raise the child.

This has been the guiding light to the modern adoption laws including the Convention on the Rights of a Child by the United Nations in 1983 containing the four basic rights of a child. The convention stressed more on the need of family based care for children rather than Care institutions. Following closely because of the increasing exploitation of adoption process in the international arena was the Hague Convention of 1993. The Convention came into place in May 29th 1993 when world nations joined together and agreed to work for the best interest of the child. It is from these earlier laws that Kenya’s Adoption law is premised.


The 2010 Demographic and Housing survey approximates the Kenyan population at 38.5 million of which an estimated 14.9 million are children below the age of 14 years. An estimated 2.4 million of these children are orphans and destitute. Contributing factors for these situations are poverty, family breakdown, abandonment, drought, political conflict, poor care arrangements among others. An estimated 30% − 45% of this vulnerable children end up in charitable children institutions while an average of 200000 − 300000 end up in the streets. The Kenya Demographic Health Survey (2005) estimates that only 64% of children below the age of 14 years live with both of their parents, 20.5% live with only their mothers and 2.4% with their fathers. The rest 13.1% of the children below 14 years live outside of parental care. Approximately 10% of the children in these institutions can be placed for adoption giving them the happiness of growing up in a family.

Further illustration is drawn from the African society which is slowly disintegrating from the communal system to individual focused society where individual interest supersedes the societal values and traditions. This coupled with the advent of HIV/AIDS pandemic leaves several children orphaned creating a situation whereby many children are in need of care and protection.

Traditionally, the Kenyan communities responded by placing orphans and abandoned children informally with extended family members or a community member which was an effective measure of leaving the children within a family environment (informal kinship care). It is estimated that over 2 million children are still living in informal kinship care.

This system is however under threat because of the weakening family structures and increasing socio-economic pressures. There is thus a need to reorganize and strengthen informal care arrangements in the modern society.

Child organizations are striving to stand in the gap by providing alternative care for the children but their efforts are in dire need of being complimented as the number of children available and free for adoption far outweighs adopters in the East African region taking into consideration the principle of subsidiarity.

Domestic adoptions although notably on the rise are hindered by a number of challenges namely:- Discriminatory laws, high level costs ,adoption myths ,process of child committal is long yet there are parents waiting for placement, adoption matters can only be heard before the High Court.

It is against this back drop that the Child Adoption Network − East Africa (CAN−EA) is organizing this conference to create awareness and to demystify the misconceptions about local adoption, touch base with the policy makers in order to streamline and provide workable solutions to encourage local adoptions such as the incorporation of kinship care and to reduce the number of children in care institutions and strengthen families after adoption.

The First East Africa’s

Child Adoption Conference

21st and 22nd November, 2013

at The Hilton Hotel, Nairobi.