Egyptian Families Adopt Orphans to Fight Stigma

Government Action, Individual Moves Encourage Families to Embrace Adoption
Rasha Mekki poses for a photo with her adopted child Moustafa and her husband. (Supplied)

Rasha Mekky adopted Moustafa when he was only four days old and she was 45 years old. At the time, she was hearing negative comments about adoption. "People used to stigmatize the adopted child but I never had that opinion."

Seeing the lack of awareness in the society about adoption, Mekky was motivated to launch her initiative and website “Adopt An Orphan in Your Home.”

“I saw the child whom I settled on adopting with my husband, four days after his birth, but the adoption process took almost a year until it became official,” Rasha said in her story on the website of the initiative (www.adoptioninegypt.org).

Islam does not allow adoption with children taking all the legal rights of the biological offspring. Instead, there is another care system which is Kafalla. Under Kafalla, adults can become guardians of orphans.

Historically, Egyptians have stopped short of adopting children and including them as part of their families. Moreover, some have stigmatized this practice as some of those children were born out of a wedlock or they were abandoned by their parents.

CHANGING ATTITUDES

Now, things are changing. Mekky along with many others, is pushing for raising awareness about Kafalla through sharing their stories on social media, inspiring many to follow suit.

In January 2020, new legislation in Egypt helped to make adoption more accessible, widespread and socially acceptable by making it possible for single women over the age of thirty and divorced women to adopt and also lowering the minimum required educational qualifications.

Encouraged by moves of other women, Hala Ibrahim, a 43-year-old woman who did not get married, adopted a 6 year-old boy.

“I have always wanted to adopt a child. But I was hesitant because of social stereotypes and misconceptions about the idea,” Ibrahim told Majalla.

“But when I saw other women adopting, I was really inspired and encouraged. I am sure that many other women want to do the same but they are held back by society or their families,” she added. However, she expected that such social initiatives will make a huge difference.

GOVERNMENT ACTION

According to official figures, legislative amendments and community initiatives have led to an increase in the number of families that are adopting children.

The Ministry of Social Solidarity received 100 adoption requests from these families during the second half of last year, according to press statements by the ministry’s legal advisor Mohamed Omar. However, this is barely makes a dent in figures because Omar says there are 11,000 other orphans who need adoptive families. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Social Solidarity said that it aspires to eliminate the need for orphanages by the year 2025.

The Egyptian Ministry of Social Solidarity has about 450 care homes or orphanages, which host about 10,000 children, more than 80 percent of whom are of unknown parentage, and there are hundreds of other care homes affiliated with NGOs.

As of today, a total of 11, 658 orphans have been placed with 11, 421 surrogate families, some of whom have 'adopted' more than one child.

The case of the children is monitored through monthly visits to the home of the surrogate family by a social worker, if the child is less than a year old, and a quarterly visit until the orphan reaches the age of 21 years.

Samia Nasr, a sociologist, said that the changing attitudes towards adoption will greatly affect society both socially and economically.

“Orphans will get the required care from the surrogate families which is going to be far better than the orphanage,” she told Majalla.

She added that such moves will also save the government millions of Egyptian pounds that are spent on orphanages.