After losing his parents, Elvis Izabayo, a TV presenter, had no option but to stay in an orphanage.
Though he managed to forge a living, life was never easy growing up in an orphanage.
He recalls being exposed to abuse, exploitation, neglect, and lack of love and care from parents. It was so painful that he lived with these scars for so many years.
“This affected me and some of my other colleagues that even when we left the place, we had to battle emotional and behavioral issues. I was emotionally needy, insecure, and poor,” he recalls.
Five years ago, the Government embarked on a mission to close orphanages and other children’s institutions and reintegrate the children into family-based care.
There is a host of challenges of children growing up in orphanages that pushed the Government to come up with the initiative.
A number of these children lack sufficient parental care, they lack basic needs among other challenges hence the need for families and homes to call their own.
Last year, the National Commission for Children revealed that nearly 900 children awaited adoption.
This is an indication that society is yet to embrace the concept of child adoption.
Earlier this year, Dr. Thomas Muyombo, better known by his stage name Tom Close, adopted an abandoned baby boy. He says that adoption changes the life of not only the adopted child but also generations of families that will stem from the same child.
Choosing to adopt is a good way of giving back to the community we live in, he says adding that it also prevents the child from becoming a burden to the community, Muyombo says.
Izabayo believes that children who are adopted have better lives than those who live in orphanages and there is a very big difference between them.
“Adopted children are given family values and have a big bond between their families and communities. But how can you create a family relationship between a child and institution while it is created between a family and a child,” he wonders.
What does it take to adopt a child?
Claudine Uwera Kanyamanza, executive secretary for the National Commission for Children, says that adoption is not a new concept.
She says that though a good number of people who understand the policy well have adopted children, some choose to foster children without going through the process of adoption.
She, however, says they have kept on sensitizing people to adopt children they have fostered.
She explains what it takes for a child to be adopted highlighting that an under eighteen-year-old child in Rwanda can be adopted only when they have a birth record, a certificate of guardianship issued by the competent authority if necessary.
Also, the child’s consent is required if the child is above twelve years. And if applicable, the written consent of the parents/ foster family approved by the authority of the sector is required.
She also adds that a report from the organ in charge of the investigation on the child’s abandonment, a report from the organ in charge of investigation done on the child’s family or other members of her/his family are all required.
Kanyamanza explains that a report on the historical background of the child approved by the sector authority and a death certificate of parents of the adoptable child if they are dead is also required.
And in other cases, a court’s declaration indicating that the child’s parents are unknown, have disappeared or have abandoned him/her is required.
“As you can see, some requirements may not be needed depending on the situation of the adoptable child. There are some that are needed when the child is an orphan, others when his/ her parents have been declared unknown or disappeared while some others are presented in case of child abandonment,” she says.
It calls for commitment
Muyombo notes that adoption takes the will of the adopting parent/ family (since it is supposed to be a shared responsibility of both parents in the family).
It also takes commitment for someone who decides to take care of the child both physically and emotionally for the rest of the child’s life. However, there is no ideal level of financial stability where someone can feel confident to be able to support a child, he says.
“It’s only a willing and committed heart that matters here. Many families that adopt children are in rural areas and not that wealthy. You only provide the child with what you have and maintain the same standard with the other children you already have or are planning to have.”
Muyombo also disagreed with the fact that people are supposed to be mobilised for adoption, debating that “I don’t think that for people to adopt they need a lot of mobilization, however, I believe that the information should be out there whenever there is an abandoned child in need of family protection because there is a lot of good Samaritans who serve our communities in different ways and may be willing to adopt children without families.”
Contacted for a comment Rosette Mutesi a mother, says that adoption may give the most advantages to the adopted children themselves.
With adoption, she says, there is ample opportunity, and many adoptive children are able to live the life that their biological parents would want them to live.
“In most cases, birth parents choose adoption because they are unable to provide the life they desire for their child. Adoption gives the child a chance to have a home and grow up in the kind of environment their birth mother and father always envisioned for them.”
Mutesi adds that adopted children are able to get love and support, physical and financial resources and also a family.
Kelia Mugenzi a varsity student points out that parents and families who adopt get a number of advantages of their own from adoption, but the strongest one remains that families get to either add life to their family or even get that family for the first time.
“Adding life to a family is in all cases referred to as a blessed experience for adopting parents. Through adoption, you are able to experience the absolute joy of happy children in a home, sometimes when having children seemed impossible due to complications. Infertile couples and single parents are given the opportunity to experience and observe the gifts of children and family at first hand.”
YOUR VOICE: WHY IS FOSTER CARE IMPORTANT?
It is important when it comes to safety and stability. Unlike orphanages, foster families offer a safe and steady environment for a child, and even if a child is not with their real parents, he or she feels like home.
Lovence Mutoni, Pharmacist
Children who get a chance for adoption have chances of leading normal lives, which is not always the case with those who grow up in children’s homes. They have someone to call ‘mother’ or ‘father’, in fact, if they are adopted at a really tender age; they grow up thinking they are with their real parents.
Norah Mutesi, Cashier
Foster homes are really crucial when it comes to maintaining the healthy psychological wellbeing of children. For many children, growing up in orphanages tends to inflict emotional lifelong effects.
Nicholas Peter, IT Expert
Children raised in foster families have a chance to learn from an early age what a family looks like and its importance. This equips them with the necessary skills when it comes to building their own homes in the future.
Henry Malumba, Architect