The Department of Children’s Services derives its mandate from the Children’s Act 2001. It is responsible for matters, such as foster care, adoption, custody, maintenance and guardianship. It also deals with administration of children’s institutions, gives effect to the principles of the Convention of the Rights of the Children and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
Adoption, foster care, guardianship Adoption is the complete severance of the legal relationship between a child and their biological parent and the establishment of a new legal relation- ship between the child and his adoptive parents. Under the foster care programme, a child is placed in the temporary care of a family other than its own as a result of challenges that prevent them from living with their family of birth.
Adoption process in Kenya Before any adoption takes place, permission should be sought from parents, guardians or any other per- son who has parental responsibility over a child. Foreigners need consent of their courts. Even so, consent for parents or guardians can be dispensed in case the child has been abandoned or neglected, the guardians can not be found or they are unnecessarily with- holding consent, or spouses who are divorced and are living apart and such separation is likely to be permanent.
For a child to be adopted, they have to be at least six weeks old and be declared free for adoption by a regis- tered adoption society in Kenya. Currently, there are five registered societies, namely the Little Angels Network, Kenya Children’s Home, Child Welfare Society of Kenya, Kenya to Kenya Peace Initiative and Little Gems.
The adoption societies assess the prospective parents to establish their fitness to adopt the child. The law allows sole or joint applicants each or one of the spouses is at least 25 years old and at least 21 years older than the child they want to adopt. A relative or stepparent of the child may also adopt. Some people are only allowed to adopt if the court is satisfied that there are special circumstances. These are a sole male applicant in respect of a female child, a sole female applicant in respect to a male child and an application or joint applicants who have both attained 65 years.
A person who is not of sound mind, who has been charged or convicted of a child offence, homosexual, joint applicants not married to each other and a sole foreign female applicant are not allowed to adopt. If the adoption agency is satisfied after the assessment, the child is placed with the applicants. There is a mandatory three-month bonding period where the applicants stay with the child prior to filling the matter before court. The court, as a final step of the process, gives an adoption order. It transfers all rights, duties and responsibilities over a child to the adopter as if the adopted child was born to that person. It extinguishes rights, duties, responsibilities that a parent, guardian or anyone who had responsibility over that child before the order was made. The registrar- general then issues the adopter an adoption certificate and maintains the adopted child’s register.
The other division under the children’s services is the statutory and children’s charitable institutions. A charitable institution is a home or institution established by a person or corporate, a religious organisation or a non-governmental organisation and has been granted approval by the National Council for Children’s Services to manage a programme for the care, protection, rehabilitation or control of children.
There are 830 charitable institutions (CCIs) in the country. The ministry gazetted CCI regulations in 2005, which require that the institution be registered with the department of children’s services. Only 347 have been registered. The registration expires after three years. The categories of children placed in CCIs range from those who are abandoned, neglected, abused, orphaned, street children and children with disabilities. The division offers these children services such as food, shelter, clothing, education, medical care, guidance and spiritual well being.
In 2005, 60,000 cases of children were reported to district children offices as being in need of care and protection.
Correction and Rehabilitation Centres
The Children’s Services Department currently runs 10 children rehabilitation schools, 12 children’s remand homes and three children’s rescue centres. The remand homes handled 1,490, 3,224 and 3,340 in 2005, 2006 and 2007, respectively. On the other hand the children rehabilitation schools handled 2,362, 1,164 and 2,490 in 2005, 2006 and 2007 respectively. Some 5,113 children were involved in crime in 2005, with only 3,500 of these cases being handled by government institutions due to capacity constraints.
These institutions have various rehabilitation programmes carried over from the colonialists, with some being of no value in an ever-changing society. In this regard, the Department has started a new reform programme to address this, such as baking and soap-making.
The children’s rescue centres handled 1,200 children in 2008, including those internally displaced in need of specialised care and support e.g. food, medical, clothing, milk, and psychosocial support by qualified staff. The challenges and achievements include inadequate funding, internally displaced children, shortage of personnel especially at institutions, inadequate resources, increase of cases of child abuse, negligence, abandonment, poverty at family level hampering child growth, development and protection, unregulated charitable children’s institutions, child sex tour- ism and exposure of children to pornography.
The earliest correctional and rehabilitation institution, Kabete Rehabilitation School was built between 1910 and 1912, in the lower Kabete area. The school was founded to cater for youth who had been imprisoned for failing to register themselves or their inability to carry their identity cards. Now, the rehabilitation schools in Kenya include Nairobi Children’s Home, Getathuru Rehabilitation School, Dagoretti Rehabilitation School and Kirigiti Rehabilitation School. Others are Wamumu, Othaya, Likoni, Kericho and Kakamega rehabilitation centres.
National Council for Children’s Services (NCCS)
The enactment of the Children’s Act, 2001, was a major milestone in the provision of the necessary legal framework for the promotion and the protection of children’s rights and welfare in Kenya. It domesticated and incorporated the provisions of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Children (UNCRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC).
The Act established statutory structures, among them the National Council for Children’s Services (NCCS), which is mandated to exercise general supervision and control over the planning, financing and coordination of child rights and welfare activities and to advice the Government on all aspects thereof. The council guarantees the wellbeing of children for them to grow into responsible adults that will carry forward the national development agenda. There are area advisory councils (AACs) which are generally guided by the NCCS. Their primary functions are to protect the rights and welfare of children in their jurisdiction, supervise and regulate planning, financing and coordination of children’s welfare programmes, mobilise resources and facilitate funding, promote and create public awareness on child rights and child protection and facilitate partnership, linkages and networking.
In 2011, the council developed the children’s protection system framework and prepared the draft of the National Children Policy (NCP).
The concept of children’s assemblies aims at instilling in children principles of participation that is crucial in promotion, inclusion, equality and development of democratic values in children. This creates the need to establish children’s assemblies in regions and counties in Kenya, so as to achieve the stated aims. Nearly all counties have established and operationalised the children’s assemblies to capture successes, challenges and future rec- ommendations for purposes of smooth running of the institution in Kenya.
The children’s assemblies secretariat picked four teams that monitored activities of the assemblies mid last year, with each team visiting two regions (provinces). An average of 40 children aged between seven and 17 in every region took part in the exercise. The monitoring teams oversaw election of officials.
In some areas, the assemblies faced challenges, which included the mobilisation of children from different counties, transport problems and identifying the children. Some parents were reluctant to allow their children to take part in activities they did not understand. There was also the problem of inadequate funding. The monitoring teams overcame these challenges by using the provincial administration, educating stakeholders, pristine activities and increasing funding.
They also suggested field education officers sensitise children in schools in their areas about the activities of the assemblies. The Government has been urged to use children services facilities and resources to construct halls and other facilities to house regional and county assemblies in every country.
The Government aims at domesticating, disseminating and ensuring compliance with national, regional and international instruments and commitments related to gender, children and social development.
Kenya has also ratified various international and regional instruments and commitments that support deliberate interventions by governments to promote gender equity and women empowerment. These include:
- Beijing declaration and platform for action
- Convention on elimination of all forms ofdiscrimination against women (CEDAW)
- Convention of the rights of the child (CRC)and the Millenium Development Goals MDGs
Achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment in Africa progress report
National Gender and Equality Commission Act 2011 Women Business and Law IFC report 2012
The Kenya MDG progress report, 2011). http://www.awid.org/library/kenya-s-elections-how-did- women-fare