|Adoption should be a wonderful fulfilling experience not only for adoptive parents but also for their families and the adopted child. The ideal is to finally be a complete unit whereby love, laughter and happiness are born into a home where it might be lacking. Unfortunately, in Malaysia, this is not always the case when individuals or couples attempt to apply for the child they wish to adopt, not only into their home, but into their lives and hearts.
Statistics compiled by Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat (JKM) show that from the year 1994 until 2000, there were a total of 1,996 adoption applications, 191 children adopted and 1,805 applications put on a waiting list.
That means that roughly only one-in-ten applications succeeded in the completion of the adoption process.
These odds are horrendous considering the number of applicants in comparison to the number of children in foster care and homes around the country. Despondent would-be parents, many of whom become jaded by the difficult and unaccommodating application process to adopt a child with the government, thus turn to less authorised methods to acquire the child they desperately wish for.
Legal Adoption – The Court, Departmental & De Facto Ways
The laws of Malaysia
make it difficult for adoptive parents to adopt children as it is time-consuming where the process could take up to two years. In Malaysia
, there are three categories when it comes to application for adopting a child. There is the ‘Muslim’ adoption, ‘Non-Muslim’ adoption and finally ‘International’ adoption.
Each category has its own unique requirements to fulfil though there are many similarities between them, such as the paperwork which the child they wish ought to have in order, and the adoptive parent’s essential documents (such as copies of their proof of citizenship, marriage certificate, birth certificates, etc).
Muslim adoptive parents may adopt both Muslim children and non-Muslim children whereas non-Muslim are only able to adopt non-Muslim children. Adoptive parents must either be a citizen or have a working permit and be in Malaysia
for at least two years before the application.
The Registration of Adoptions Act 1952 is applicable to both Muslims and non-Muslim children. However, adoption through a court order (Act 257) is only applicable to non-Muslims. Muslim adoptive parents are able to apply with the National Registration Department.
The adoptive parents will have to provide the child with proper education, maintenance and care for at least two years from the date of the child’s natural parent’s statutory declaration. If the National Registration Department qualifies the adoption, a certified copy of the entry would be delivered to the adoptive parents.
Married couples as well as single mothers are able to adopt both female and male children whereas single fathers are only able to adopt male children.
There are two different methods in adopting children; court adoption as well as departmental adoption. Court adoption is where the adoptive parents have the duty to obtain a statutory declaration from the child’s natural parents. After three months of caring for their adoptive child, the adoptive parent(s) would have a lawyer to petition to the Sessions Court for the adoption order. An adoption order would then be given out after the Court receives written reports on the welfare of the adopted child and adoptive parents. The adopted child must be younger than 21 years old.
Parents may find the second method, Departmental Adoption, to be a longer process. Adoptive parents would first have to notify the Social Department in the State of their wish and intentions to apply for an adoption order of a child. Adoptive parents would then receive an “offer” letter if their application is approved by the Social Welfare Department. Notifications would be handwritten. Lawyers would not be involved in Departmental Adoptions; therefore, parents would have to enquire on the status of their application directly from the Registration Department. Once a report on the child and the adoptive parents are submitted, the case will come to an end. On the whole, this procedure may take two years or more. In this case, the adoptive child must be younger than 18 years old.
The De Facto adopting process means that a child exists whether or not he or she has the proper documents or birth certificates. It is stated in Section 6(1) of Act 253, that the adopted child would be educated, raised and cared for by the adoptive parents for at least two years. Under the de facto process, the adopting process enables a single father to adopt a female child. Adoptive parents need to obtain a letter of consent from the child’s natural parents in order to proceed with the procedure. The child that is to be adopted cannot be married and must be younger than 18 years old. A payment of RM 30 would be made when the application is approved.
Un-official adoption, in general, is usually not so much a desperate adoption process. It is common among family members where a cousin or sibling who may have more children than they are able to financially manage, offer one or more of their children to more well-to-do family members or those who have no children of their own. Sometimes, it may be friends of friends or a family friend or some friend of a relation that offers their child to be raised by a family they believe will provide a better life for their child.
There is usually no written agreement in black and white stating details of how the child is raised or who has legal rights in different circumstances and such. It is normally a verbal agreement and understanding among those involved. The legal implications and complications that may occur through this form of ‘adoption’ are numerous but it is not likely to dissipate anytime soon.
Due to the obviously difficult, long and complicated legal process in adopting a child, many resort to illegal methods of obtaining the child they want so badly, specifically, buying babies which they aren’t able to conceive themselves. The baby-selling syndicate is one that has been around for many years and thriving in Malaysia
. In fact, there is such a large demand for babies to adopt that (according to news reports by publications such as Singapore
’s Straits Times, The Star, and BBC Asia over the years) there are a number of methods for the baby to be obtained – all illegal and dangerous.
There are those who kidnap babies and sell them, syndicates which force prostitutes to give birth to babies which are promptly sold, as well as foreign students being approached to act as surrogate mothers to bear a baby for the desperate would-be parent(s).
These methods of obtaining a baby pose a variety of problems that may not occur to the parents. For one, the legal punishments for being involved in such transactions are very heavy. Second, the child’s medical history would be unobtainable and untraceable which may cause untold problems in the future. This is not to mention the fact that the biological parents of these children may not have had a choice or chose to give up their child willingly.
Thenmoli is one of the many examples of parents resorting to unofficial adoption methods. After unsuccessfully trying to have children on their own, they finally came to a decision to adopt a child. However, having heard horror stories from those who have attempted to adopt a child through legal means, she opted to ‘unofficially’ adopt a child instead.
After some enquiries from those whom they could adopt a child, they found a mother of five who wanted to give up one of her children because she couldn’t afford to support the child anymore. She had reached this decision after her husband landed in jail.
An exchange was agreed upon which included not only medical assistance and basic necessities but also a small “fee” for the child. After the baby was born, they continued the process of claiming the child by obtaining legal documents declaring them as parents with little difficulty. Years after the illegal process of getting the child, they have not faced problems with the authorities or faced any complications in raising it.
While we can understand and appreciate the frustration and pain would-be parents face when they fail to adopt a child through legal ways, illegal methods should not be supported or resorted to, especially that of buying babies with its many potential pitfalls.
The legal methods to adopt a child may be filled with many frustrations but patience needs to be called on as we must appreciate that much like every other country in the world, these government servants are few, underpaid and overworked. Simply reassessing the laws pertaining to adoption may not be enough, although it is an essential change required to ease the process and decrease the number of illegal adoptions, as more government servants or legal agents are required to deal with the large number of adoption applications.