ADOPTING a child in Malaysia is not as easy as you may think. Not everyone can adopt; there is a list of criteria for adoptive parents. There’s hope for singles; you can adopt but it is easier for childless couples.
If you already have children, you can still adopt, but the chances are not as good as childless couples.
In Malaysia, priority is given to childless couples who fulfil the criteria.
According to Syarhah Mohamed Tahir, the project admin at OrphanCARE, the criteria includes:
- Younger than 45 years (for those adopting babies); 60 years old is the cap for those wanting to adopt older children.
- At least married for five years.
- Minimum combined salary is RM5,000.
- Debt free (OrphanCARE will check your debts) – even if you earn RM8,000 but have to pay the bank RM9,000, you won’t be accepted.
- One spouse must be Malaysian.
- Living in Peninsular Malaysia and working here (because Sabah and Sarawak have their own set of laws on adoption, it is quite complicated to adopt a child here and bring him/her back to Sabah and/or Sarawak and vice versa).
The criteria for adopting babies and children is the same, except for one point – for babies, the couple has to be childless.
Because priority is given to childless couples (be warned, there is a waiting list and can take up to a few years!) and everyone wants to adopt babies, it is easier for singles to adopt older children.
Currently, the waiting list for Muslims is about 50 and for non-Muslims about 150-200 because non-Muslim babies are hard to come by.
OrphanCARE, which was registered in 2008, may be more well known for its baby hatch (where unwanted babies can be left for adoption) which was set up in 2010, but the foundation also assists in the adoption of older orphan children.
Since operations started, 113 babies from the baby hatch and 15 children from the orphanages have been successfully adopted through OrphanCARE.
According to Syarhah, of the bigger kids, the youngest child adopted from the orphanage was four years old and the eldest was 12. They are from all races and religions, although most of the children are Muslim.
The children are placed with families according to religion, then race. Because there are not many non-Muslim children, it is much harder for non-Muslims to adopt.
Her advice to those wanting to get babies faster is to go to the villages or kampungs to find couples who have several children and want to give one up for adoption. If the couple wanting to adopt needs to get information on how to go about it (the legal process and documentation needed), they can always approach OrphanCARE for advice.
How do you adopt?
You can go to OrphanCARE to fill up the form and register as a potential adoptive parent/s.
The foundation would then check if you fulfil the criteria and if you do, you are called in for an interview.
During the interview process, OrphanCARE would weed out or advise those adopting for the wrong reasons – for example, wanting someone to take care of them in old age or loneliness.
“We have to educate them one by one, couple by couple, what is the right reason to adopt.
“You do not adopt because you’re lonely. When the child goes to school you’re going to be lonely again, so what are you going to do? Adopt again?
“When the child is naughty, you’re going to regret it. Children are children; they are going to be naughty. You are not going to say things like ‘I regret adopting you’. That’s why they have to go for our mandatory training before adopting.
“I tell these couples that the children are without parents. They are waiting for love, so you adopt because you want to give love to them. It’s not about you; it’s about them. They have to understand that.
“If you give them love, they will love you back. You can’t expect them to love you just because you adopt them. It doesn’t work that way; it’s more complicated,” says Syarhah.
This doesn’t mean that everyone with the “wrong” answer is rejected. Sometimes couples don’t even realise what they are answering.
Besides the interview with OrphanCARE, the couple would also need to get a letter from the Social Welfare Department (JKM) saying that they are fit to adopt.
Then, you wait for the call from OrphanCARE if and when they find a suitable child for you.
When a baby arrives
The whole point of having baby hatches is to avoid baby dumping.
We have read news articles about such things – babies who were dumped in toilets and dustbins and died soon after.
According to the police, babies who are dumped normally die of dehydration.
A baby who is dumped by the roadside or even those place in the baby hatch are considered stateless.
In addition, any babies who have no document or indication (medal, cross, symbol) stating their race and religion are automatically assumed to be Muslim.
“The problem with babies placed in the hatch or found alive elsewhere such as in the dustbin or by the roadside, is they are stateless. That means they do not have citizenship. The adoptive parents have to apply for their citizenship.
“We prefer the birth mothers bring the baby in so we can help them,” says Syarhah.
When a baby is placed in the baby hatch, a discreet alarm goes off within the OrphanCARE building (triggered by the weight of the infant in the hatch).
OrphanCARE recommends biological mums to come in to their office and talk to an officer in charge. This is not to dissuade the parent from giving up their baby. This is so that the baby can be adopted through the proper channels.
“They can give up their child in a straightforward way by just filling up the necessary forms. OrphanCARE will assist with all the legal details that need to be sorted out so that the child can be adopted. This way, the biological mother can keep in contact with OrphanCARE and if the baby needs urgent medical help that only the biological mother can assist with, she can be contacted,” says Syarhah.
She explains that when a baby comes in via the baby hatch, OrphanCARE will need to make a police report about it. Whatever documents and items that were left with the baby has to be taken to the police station where a photo will be taken.
They will check the handwriting and provide a report on it. Usually based on the handwriting, the police can determine if the mother was Malaysian or Indonesian, the age range, and they can even tell the difference between male and female and even if the mother is underaged or educated.
Syarhah informs that it’s not a crime to leave the baby in the hatch, so if there is no way to trace the birth mum, the police will usually end the report with NFA – “no further action”.
The baby is then taken to the hospital to be admitted and the hospital will run tests on the infant.
“On our part, we must inform the nearest district JKM that a baby was placed in the hatch and we also fax them the police report so that they don’t have to do it.
“Next, we will find fit parents for the baby. The screening procedure would have been done way before this when the couple who wants to adopt applied to adopt,” explains Syarhah.
Couples wanting to adopt can specify if they want a Malaysian or foreign baby, or if they want a girl or boy, or even if they want the baby through the hatch or walk-in.
When it comes to adopting a baby, there is a difference between adopting from the baby hatch and from mothers who walk in and sign all the paper work.
Infants coming in through the hatch would be stateless. There would be no ties with the biological mother but that also means the adoptive parents would need to go to court every month for about two years.
On the other hand, those who adopt from the biological mother might have some contact with her for the rest of their child’s life. This would come in helpful in knowing the family’s medical history and also if you would one day need anything for medical reasons … like blood or bone marrow.
In addition, typically when the biological mum comes in, the adoptive parents would help to pay for her delivery charges and if she is working, compensate her for the one month when she was on confinement and perhaps confinement care. What the adoptive parents provides depends on what the birth mother needs. The birth mother can also come in to OrphanCARE before she delivers if she intends to give up her baby.
Syarhah explains that the assistance provided must be for genuine reasons and related to the child. The biological mum cannot ask for a work permit in exchange for her baby. “There is no human trafficking here,” she adds.
For the bigger kids, the process is slightly different. When a suitable child is found, the adoptive parents and child would meet to see if there is chemistry.
If both the couple and the child like each other and there is chemistry, the couple can bring home the child for a short holiday (Hari Raya or Christmas or whichever festive season they celebrate). The couple can use that opportunity to see how the child and their relatives get along. The couple can then bring the child out for holiday elsewhere on another occasion.
“Then they have to proceed with the adoption. They can’t just take the child out for holidays and leave it as that. I think the child would also expect to be adopted, so it wouldn’t be fair if they didn’t adopt then.
“Whatever they do, they must keep in mind that they are going to adopt the child, not just to take the child out for a holiday,” says Syarhah, explaining that this process would roughly take a few months.
If the couple already has children and want to adopt another child (not an infant), all the more reason to take the child home with them to see if all the children get along.
JKM also has rules when the couple already has children. If this is your second adoption, you have to inform the first adopted child that he/she is adopted before you adopt again.
If you have a son, you cannot adopt a younger girl, but if you have a daughter, you can adopt a younger boy (there is a suitable gap in the ages specified by JKM). This is to avoid incest.
After adoption, OrphanCARE does keep an eye on the families to ensure everything is going smoothly and there is no abuse.
OrphanCARE admits they can’t do home visits for everyone, but they have tea parties for the families so that they can talk with other families and share their experiences.
Syarhah stresses the need to inform children if they are adopted because the child will find out one day and it’s better if they find out from the adoptive parents, rather than from cousins or aunts and uncles.
“There’s nothing wrong with adoption, so don’t hide it like it’s something wrong,” she adds, explaining that insecurity is one reason adoptive parents try to keep it a secret.
If there are any problems after adoption, families can come in to OrphanCARE for counselling.
Syarhah explains that if your own child needs lots of love, then an adopted child would need even more, especially if the child has spent some time in an orphanage. They would need lots of love, hugs and reassurance that the family loves them.
OrphanCARE’s offices can be found in Petaling Jaya, Johor Baru and Kota Baru. The three venues each have a baby hatch.
For more information on OrphanCARE, go to orphancare.org.my.