The Kenya Forum | Changes to law on adoption: adopted children to be given birth certificates - The Kenya Forum

May 26, 2013


Changes to law on adoption: adopted children to be given birth certificates. Previous laws blocked receipt of birth certificate, effectively making adopted children ‘ghosts’.

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Changes to law on adoption: adopted children to be given birth certificates

Changes to law on adoption: adopted children to be given birth certificates

Children adopted in Kenya are now entitled to be issued with birth certificates. This comes after a high court ruling by Judge Isaac Lenaola directing the principal registrar of births and deaths to ensure that all registered adopted children are issued with birth certificates immediately.

The principal legislation governing the adoption of children in Kenya is the Children’s Act 2001. The procedure of adopting a child basically entails identifying the child one wishes to adopt either from a children’s home or adopting agency, engaging an advocate to file for an adoption order by the high court.

The director of the children department is required to file a report on the matter, mainly on the suitability of the applicant, during the first hearing by the court before an adoption can be granted.


The High Court is the only court allowed to issue adoption orders and makes the orders in compliance with the following conditions:

1) Children must be at least 6 weeks old and declared free for adoption by a registered society.

2) Any child who is resident in Kenya must be adopted whether or not the child is a Kenyan citizen, was or was not born in Kenya.

3) Adoption order cannot be granted unless the child concerned has been in the continuous care of the adopting couple for more than three consecutive months preceding the filing of the applications and both the child and the applicant(s) may be evaluated and assessed by a registered adoption society in Kenya.

4) One of the applicants must be more than 25 years old and more than 21 years older than the infant and less than 65 years old. The applicants could also be a relative or one of the parents.


a. Sole foreign applicant

b. One or both applicants who is not of sound mind on the meaning of the mental health act.

c. Applicant(s) who have been charged and convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction for or of any offence against children under Kenyan laws.

d. Homosexuals.

e. Joint applicants not married to each other.


Prior to these ruling, in the case filed by The Organization for National Development Lobby Group, adopted children were denied birth certificates and only issued an adoption order which was then registered in a separate register.

In the suit filed at the constitutional and human rights court through lawyer Steve Gitonga in July last year, The Organization For National Development was of the opinion that registering adopted children in a separate register is discrimination based on social origin.

The claimants were seeking to quash sections 169 and 170 of The Children’s ACT and section 11 of The Birth and Deaths Registration Act on grounds that they offend the constitutional provisions on equality for all as they discriminate against adopted children, which is contrary to article 27 of the new constitution.

“To the extent that the said sections 169 and 170 of the Children Act provide separate documentation for adopted children, it is discriminatory,” Gitonga was quoted back then.

According to Judge Lenaola, the birth certificate should not refer to the parents as adopter or the children as adopted.

“What is the policy involved in denial of a birth certificate when there is no doubt that an adopted child was indeed born and is not a ghost?” asked Lenaola, adding that denial of birth certificates to adopted children has no meaning at all.


Africans have gradually begun to embrace adoption as a noble way of raising a family and Kenya has not been left behind in this development. This move therefore does not only give adopted children a right to birth certificates just like any other child in the country, but a sense of belonging as well.

Well done to the efforts by The Organization for National Development and to Judge Lenaola for the wise ruling, says the Kenya Forum.


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