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Ask the Expert: Adoption with OrphanCare

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Mamas or mamas-to-be, are you considering adoption, or would you like to understand a little bit (or a lot) more about ways to adopt in Malaysia?

Adoption may seem daunting and complicated, with many misconceptions regarding the the adoption system in Malaysia. In conjunction with World Adoption Day this year, makchic invited Ms Riza Bt Alwi, Advocacy and Communications Manager of OrphanCare, to answer your questions surrounding adoption.

Here are the main takeaways from the questions raised by our #makchicmumsquad last month:

Ms Riza Bt Alwi, Advocacy and Communications Manager of OrphanCare

The heart of OrphanCare

OrphanCare is a wonderful local non-governmental organisation that works together with the Department of Social Welfare (JKM) and other institutions to help facilitate adoption for Malaysian families. They aim to deinstitutionalise and move children away from orphanages through reintegration into the care of loving families.

Saving babies

Is OrphanCare an adoption agency? Can I be guaranteed a baby of my choice if I adopt through OrphanCare?

OrphanCare’s purpose is to get parents for the babies. We are not an adoption agency. We work towards saving babies and then matching them with parents, and don’t work based on statistics or KPIs. When parents sign up to be on our waiting list and have gone through our training, they understand that they are now part of the saving community.

Deinstitutionalisation and reintegration

What are some of the guiding principles for OrphanCare?

We believe that every child needs a family.

So many children who grow up in institutions end up on the streets. For every child living in an institution, the institution will be given an allowance by the government. Children are not meant to be institutionalised, and the money can be channeled towards supporting the mothers themselves instead; to give proper livelihoods for the parents who cannot cope and may be treating orphanages as a ‘boarding school’.  It’s much more than food and shelter that a child needs; OrphanCare focuses on the wellbeing of a child. This is why we focus on deinstitutionalisation and reintegration for these forgotten children of Malaysia.


Getting started

Parents can choose to legally adopt through OrphanCare or the Department of Social Welfare (JKM), with both adoption processes being the same or similar. The differences lie in the eligibility requirements, training support offered and application renewal requirements, among others.

Ms Riza shares how to get started with OrphanCare, and some key factors to consider:

  • Requirements and eligibility

The application is done through the legal system, but with more stringent screening requirements by OrphanCare to ensure only responsible parents are selected. OrphanCare focuses on the adoption of babies (those below two years old) to couples who do not have a child. For the adoption of babies, prospective parents must be:

  • childless, and be married for more than 5 years;
  • a Malaysian resident living in a safe environment (individuals who are Malaysian PR holders and married to Malaysian citizens are also eligible); and
  • earning a combined income of RM5,000, among others.

For children above two years old, priority will be given either to couples who already have children, or singles.

[For additional information, please refer to Orphancare’s helpful list of the eligibility requirements and processes and step-by-step guide]

Is it also possible for an unmarried Malay/ Muslim lady to legally adopt?

Under OrphanCare, we facilitate the adoption for singles, regardless of race or religion, to adopt older children (i.e. two years and above). An unmarried Malay/Muslim lady is eligible to adopt children above the age of two.


The process

Every child is different and every case is unique. Ms Riza explains why it is so hard to specify how long the adoption process will take, as well as the costs involved. She shares the first few steps interested individuals can take to begin their adoption process.

[For more information and a comprehensive guide, please refer to Orphancare’s step by step guide, as well as their eligibility assessment here]

  • First steps

1) Email a request for adoption to adoption@orphancare.org.my.

2) If you fit the criteria, OrphanCare will send over forms to be filled in.

3) Once the forms have been submitted, OrphanCare will then contact the prospective parent for an interview and a house visit.

4) Training will be held for qualified adoptive parents.

  • Waiting time

What is the time frame and cost to adopt a child, and how does the matching process work?

We have no ‘stock’ of babies at OrphanCare. When one baby comes to be saved, one baby will be out. The waiting period varies, based on the matching process. If there is a birth mother that comes to us to give up her baby for adoption, the priority will be with the birth mother to choose which parent they will be comfortable with putting up their child for adoption with. There are so many variables involved, which is why there is really no fixed time frame that can be given.

We are not standing on our own; we are a NGO that supports the work of other institutions and JKM. Matching will be made with the assistance of JKM, who will give us lists of children who are adoptable.

Is it possible to ‘book’ a pregnant mother with OrphanCare?

Once again, we are not an adoption agency. We will not promise a baby to a prospective parent until the birth mother has given birth, as this is likely to give them false hopes. There are so many times when the birth mother changes her mind and decides she wants to keep the baby, post-birth. At OrphanCare, we will also assist pregnant girls by counselling them and making sure they truly are ready to give up the baby, before connecting them with the adoptive parents.


Support

Adopting is a life-changing decision, with implications and adjustments for everyone involved. OrphanCare provides support and counselling for birth parents, adoptive parents, foster carers and children, offering free 24-hour support lines (010-283 0528) and an online support chat option. The conversations held are highly confidential and non-judgmental, with all the counsellors being qualified professionals who are registered with the Malaysian Board of Counsellors.

What type of training and support is available for adoptive families?

OrphanCare visits our adoptive families every 6 months for 2 years, and maintains contact with all our families. We provide training to all our qualified adoptive parents, imparting knowledge on primal wounds, bonding, acceptance, upbringing and others.

Our training is quite detailed, and is carried out four times a year. We impart knowledge about babies from the first to the fourth trimester, offer breastfeeding support, and also recommend hospitals to the adoptive parents. There’s also a focus on psychology and bonding, where we cover topics such as adopted child syndrome, and recommend useful books for the adoptive parents.

We emphasise for parents to tell the babies that they have been adopted. We encourage them to have a ‘life book‘ to show the day they were born, and to make the word “adoption” a norm among families. There’s nothing wrong about it.  Adoptive parents have to accept that their child is adopted – then everyone around them will follow suit as well.

I’m worried that I won’t bond as well with my adopted child. How do families navigate this?

We encourage parents, especially the adoptive mum, to take leave to bond with the baby when the baby arrives home. This is so they can bond for at least one or two months, as the primary caretaker. Adoptive mums did not go through the pregnancy, and so, it would be highly beneficial for them to bond with the baby for at least the first three months. We understand that many parents will have to go back to work later on, but taking leave in the beginning is recommended.

The adoptive fathers also need to give moral support and understand that the mothers will have mood swings, especially if they are taking  pills to lactate (as encouraged and recommended by OrphanCare).


Birth and adoptive parents

  • Maintaining respectful boundaries

How would appropriate boundaries be maintained with the biological parents of the child, if they’re known?

The triad – of the child, the birth mother, and the adoptive parents – is very, very important to us. Birth mothers are as important as the adoptive parents. OrphanCare sets the boundaries by facilitating all contact and communications between the two parties. We don’t encourage direct contact, and OrphanCare will act as a facilitator. But if adoptive and biological parents want to  meet, they are encouraged to only meet at OrphanCare’s premises.

Adoption is supposed to be a beautiful journey, and it shouldn’t be ridden with fear. If the adoptive parent shows respect for the birth mum, then the birth mum will (often) reciprocate. There are adoptive parents and birth mothers who actually become friends; we’ve even had birthdays that have been celebrated at OrphanCare with everyone together!

  • Legal rights

Can the child be taken back by their birth parents after adoption? What rights do the birth parents continue to have then (if any)?

Legally, the baby belongs to the adoptive parents once the birth mother has signed the adoption papers. Taking back the baby is actually possible, but with a lot of court processes. When the birth mums find out about this, they often won’t proceed. We do have cases where the birth father wants to claim back the baby, but if he has not been married to the birth mother, he has no legal rights to the baby.


The flip side

For whatever reason, you may be the one with an unplanned pregnancy and/or considering giving your baby up for adoption. If you are pregnant and scared, OrphanCare will be able to hold your hand and walk you through your journey.

If you’re someone looking to give your child up for adoption, what is the process like?”

OrphanCare provides counselling to mothers, either during their pregnancy or to those who have given birth. If the decision is to give the baby up for adoption, then the birth mother will have a say on the choice of the adoptive parents. OrphanCare will facilitate the registration and all the legal processes.

For more information, please read this article by Orphancare.

 

[*The contents above have been edited slightly for clarity and brevity.]


We hope this gives some insight into the process of adoption in Malaysia and helps to smoothen the journey for anyone who is looking to adopt. Wishing prospective parents all the best – it’s going to be the start of a wonderful, life-changing journey!

Elaine is a mummy of two who moved from the financial world to become an early childhood educator. She loves travelling, books and her cup of tea to unwind after a long day of diapers, school runs and pretend play.