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Malawi and the US Commemorate National Adoption Month


Malawi and the US Commemorate National Adoption Month

The Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy on Wednesday, November 22, hosted a panel discussion, “Finding Families for Children” to commemorate the thirteenth National Adoption Month.  Officials from the Ministry of Women and Child Development, human rights activists, lawyers, the media and members of the general public met to discuss domestic and inter-country adoption from the point of view of the law, practice, and personal experience.

In his opening remarks, United States Ambassador Alan Eastham said Malawi and the United States share common interests in adoption given the increasing numbers of orphans in foster homes and orphanages in the two countries.  "I hope today's discussion will be the beginning of dialogue between the United States and Malawi on the subject of adoption, and I welcome this debate," said Ambassador Eastham.

Ministry of Women and Child Development official Cyrus Jeke said the Malawi government believes that the best place for a child is a home.   Jeke said he had personally noted that a substantial number of Malawians adopt children without following procedure through the extended family tradition.  "Many families are unofficially adopting in Malawi but this year our ministry only recorded ten official adoptions,'' said Jeke.

An American couple who already adopted a daughter in Kenya and is planning to adopt in Ethiopia said they studied the Malawi adoption laws and found it hard to adopt in Malawi.  They said the pracitice of giving the extended biological family an option to reassert custody at the end of the fostering period was worrying for families planning to adopt in Malawi.  Jeke said government was working with the Malawi Law Commission and other legal arms to review adoption laws and would amend them soon.

A family lawyer who attended the session said the residency and fostering period is not a legal requirement but a Ministry policy.  He added that it is up to the high court judge to apply the policy on case by case circumstances.

In the United States, the government encourages the adoption of young people in need, and honors the adoptive and foster families who have offered children homes.   In Malawi, the National Adoption Month commemoration was an opportunity to discuss adoption legal procedure and to increase awareness of the many millions of children in the foster care system awaiting permanent families.

2009 Nov 22