The ideal scenario for a happy family is a glowingly pregnant woman with a husband at her side, both anticipating the joyful completion of their family.
However in reality, many things can happen that render this scenario merely a fantasy. The fact is many couples suffer from infertility, and may never bear their own natural children despite exhausting all options.
On the flip side, there is the orphan child. Whether they have been orphaned, given up voluntarily, abandoned, abused or forced to leave home due to poverty, there are many children out there who lack a loving home and family. Statistics state that up to 50,000 Malaysian children live in institutions. An orphanage or institution can never replace a loving home. But every child certainly has the right to grow up with love and care, with the necessary support to build a good foundation for a good life.
Adoption is the happy compromise. While it is not an easy and certainly there is some stigma attached to adoption in our modern but traditional society, it is certainly worthwhile when you consider how it improves the quality of a child and its parents’ lives.
In Malaysia, adoption is a somewhat lengthy process of some 6 to 9 months with lots of paperwork involved. According to the law, there are two separate but concurrent legislative schemes for adoption in Malaysia, the Adoption Act 1952 (“Adoption Act”) and Registration of Adoptions Act 1952 (“Registration of Adoptions Act”). While the Adoption Act is applicable for the non-Muslims, the Registration of Adoptions Act caters for the Muslims, but is not restricted to Muslims only.
The Adoption Act requires a formal application be made to the court allowing the adoption with consent from the child’s birth parents. Consent may be dispensed with under certain conditions the usual ones being, when the parent or guardian of the child has abandoned, neglected or persistently ill treated the child; or where the person whose consent is required cannot be found or is incapable of giving his consent. If adoption is allowed, the application will be sent to the National Registration Department for registration in the Registrar of Adoption.
Possible for Muslims to legally adopt
The Registration of Adoptions Act makes it possible for Muslims to legally adopt, taking Islamic law into account. Islam requires that the child’s original identity and the identity of the birth parents be kept on record for disclosure to the child at a suitable age.
This is to ensure that the adopted child does not enter in non-permissible (Muhrim) relationships with blood relatives. Islam also does not recognise any change to a child’s inheritance rights despite the adoption. Muslim adoptive parents can however use their discretion to write up 1/3 of their estate as a gift (Hibah) for the adopted child.
Application for the Registration of Adoptions Act is made and processed by the National Registration Department and the child must be in the custody of the adoptive parents for at least two years, with consent from the birth parents. However, this decision is up to the discretion of the Registrar of Adoption and made in the child’s best interest. Adoptive parents will be interviewed and a report will be submitted to the welfare department before a certificate of adoption is issued.
Here are some criteria from the Jabatan Kebajikan Malaysia to consider if you’re thinking about adopting:
- Couples should be married for at least 5 years and childless (optional for couple with medical record)
- Have a report from a fertility specialist on why both of the couple could not conceive
- Malaysian citizen or married to a Malaysian
- Living in Peninsular Malaysia
- Healthy mentally and physically
- No criminal record
- Living in a safe neighbourhood
- Combined income of at least RM5000
Adopting a child is of course, a decision made for life and not shouldn’t be taken lightly. To get started, parents can visit an adoption agency like OrphanCARE.