1 March 2008

Tanzania: Despite Huge Number of Orphans Child Adoption Still a Nightmare

Arusha — Disadvantaged children roaming Arusha's streets could be eligible for adoption but the process is no easy task.

Adoption of children in Tanzania is difficult because of the existing legislation and ignorance of people on procedures involved.

The situation has also been compounded by traditions and cultures which confined many people to care only for orphaned children of immediate relatives or extended family members.

Max Church, the country's director of Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), says with the growing number of orphans and abandoned children, it was necessary that rules on adoption of children are made simple.

"There is a cultural pressure here in Tanzania that one has to adopt only a child from immediate relatives. Adoption of children from unknown families or tribes is a bit strange here" he said.

Mr. Church, was briefing Arusha-based journalists on the operations of the baby care centre run by his wife, Davona Church, at ADRA premises at Usa River along the Moshi-Arusha road.

The Cradle of Love Baby Home was established in December 2005 and currently has 39 babies.

Most of them are orphans collected from various families devastated by HIV/Aids while others were found thrown along the roadsides.

Mr. Church, an American, has adopted five children, one from deceased Tanzanian parents, in his long years of church service which has seen him working in various African countries, including Tanzania and Malawi.

One of the adopted children is a four year old girl who was picked in Arusha when she was only a few days' old. Four other adopted children are now grown ups in the US. He has two children with his wife.

Mr. Church said it took him a long time for him to complete procedures on adopting the young girl whose original parents were from Warangi tribe in Kondoa district but who had settled in Arusha.

Cradle for Love Centre cares only for babies who are less than two years' old. After "graduating" from there, they are taken by sponsors or other Good Samaritans to orphanage centres and schools.

Mrs Church said many of the babies were found abandoned on the roadsides, or at public hospitals after their mothers died because of delivery complications or HIV/Aids.

However, she explained that some babies were taken there by their fathers after the death of their mothers " because men cannot take care of infants".

After attaining two years, they are collected by their relatives. So far the Home has cared for 93 babies and currently has 39 babies, including three sets of twins.

Mr. Church emphasized that the general public in Tanzania must be sensitised enough on child adoptation because of the growing number of abandoned infants and orphans.

He said although there were some well-to do families which are ready to adopt a child should a need arise, the procedures involved are not clear or long and cumbersome.

According to him, experience has shown that children have been adopted only by couples who have failed to have kids for biological or other reasons or by individuals with strong religious backgrounds.

Statistics available indicate that there were over two million orphans across the country. Most of them have lost their parents due to the HIV/Aids pandemic, accidents and other causes.

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