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Navigating uncharted terrain: Domestic adoptions in Kenya


Child & Family Social Work

Published online on


Over 2 million children are cared for in kinship care in Kenya, and approximately 100,000 are believed to be living in residential care centres. Under leading international policy instruments ratified and domesticated by Kenya, domestic adoption is considered an option to be promoted and regulated in ensuring children's right to family‐based care. In this qualitative study, the authors interviewed 21 participants regarding the cultural and social contexts of domestic adoption in Kenya. Common beliefs and attitudes reflect a misunderstanding of the legal implications of adoption, the centrality of lineage as a vehicle for defining family membership and inheritance, and strong stigma regarding infertility. Main barriers to adoption include fear of exposing infertility, worry about corrupt practices, and reluctance to grant full inheritance rights to a child unrelated by blood. Despite these challenges, some couples are adopting to fulfil their desire for a child, as an expression of charity, and in some cases for practical reasons such as obtaining insurance for a kin child. The authors recommend placing children in adoption only with proper preparation and ethical procedures and suggest long‐term approaches to promoting adoptions that will ensure full rights of family membership for the child.