National adoption agency needed to meet Kazakh children’s needs, says Ana Uii executives

Creating a national adoption agency will make the process high quality and more transparent. The agency will also help to meet the needs of children in orphanages by placing them in competent families, said Ana Uii (Mother’s House) Public Fund Executive Committee Chair Anar Rakhimbayeva and fund Executive Director Bibigul Makhmetova in an interview with The Astana Times.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev reportedly signed a protocol to establish a national adoption agency based on Ana Uii’s work.

“Now, the powers and functions on adoption issues from different ministries and akimats (city and regional administration) will be transferred to the agency and, finally, both the adoption process and the transformation process of orphanages across the country will accelerate!” said BI Group head and Ana Uii Public Fund founder Aidyn Rakhimbayev in his Facebook post.

Currently, Ana Uii is part of the working group to develop a legislative framework for the national adoption agency.

“In our opinion, the process [of adoption] will be more transparent and of high quality [with the creation of the agency]. The issue is very complicated and it needs to be worked out with all parties involved in the process,” said Rakhimbayeva.

Certain stages of the process must be changed.

“First, there is a need to provide high-quality counselling and selection and training of adoptive parents… Any citizen who submitted a list of documents can become a foster parent, but individual consultation and more careful selection are important. The family for the child must be selected and prepared,” she added.

In accordance with the Kazakh Code on Marriage and Matrimony, the fund presently does not have the authority to participate in children’s placement in families.

“When we took the project and realised that we want to help children as a non-governmental organisation, we saw that only authorised state bodies have the authority to place children in families. These are guardianship agencies, the Children’s Rights Protection Committee which deals with the national database and oversees all issues related to the protection of children’s rights,” said Makhmetova.

“The code states that the authorised bodies are national agencies. There are also accredited international adoption agencies, because they have special regulations that are also listed in the code,” she added.

The national database provides information on orphanages and the children living there, which simplifies the work. More complete information about the children, however, is required, she said.

“The adoptive family has certain ideas about the child (they want to adopt). We have no information about children to prepare a child for transition to a family. We do not have access to the institutions. The adoption is carried out based on the candidate (the adoptive family) and their wishes, while it is correct to start from the needs of the children. The national adoption agency will give us the opportunity to work with children, get certain powers, see their needs and prepare them. These competencies can be prepared at the school of adoptive parents,” she noted.

“Now, the school is not mandatory for candidates to pass, as it is not in the legislation,” added Rakhimbayeva.

Approximately 50-60 percent of parents are involved with the school of adoptive parents. The rest apply directly to the guardianship agencies without preparation.

“The transformation process and the creation of the national agency should be parallel, because the agency alone will not resolve the issue. The institution should have an understanding of the importance of the family for a child. The state spends enormous funds on the maintenance of children, but children cannot socialise, because the experience gained in institutions does not contribute to successful socialisation,” said Makhmetova.

“They cannot create a family, and girls coming to Ana Uii proves this to us. Practice shows that the majority of girls who were abandoned as children had an experience living in such institutions [orphanages]. Therefore, we need to break this circle. The efforts of institutions should be focused on prevention, that is, support for families,” she added.

At the same time, Rakhimbayeva noted changes should be implemented in the orphanage system.

“Secondly, it is important to change the system of orphanages simultaneously, to move away from the residential care of children, to create family groups and create living conditions and interaction with children as at home. There is a need to prepare children for life in the family, foster or their own, which they themselves will create when they become adults,” she said.

Every child should receive enough attention from the institutions to make correct decisions regarding one’s life and future family.

“Individual work with the case of each child is very important, because everyone knows that most of the children from orphanages are social orphans (they have parents who for various reasons do not want or cannot raise them). There is a need to work with the status of children, to timely file a search for parents, to put in order all the documents of the child,” she said.

“Sometimes, when searching for a child’s family, incredible cases open up that may affect the future fate of the child. For example, aunts and uncles who are ready to take care of their nieces and nephews,” she added.

Rakhimbayeva and Makhmetova emphasised the work should not be finished after children are transferred to adoptive families. Their further activities and life in the family should be monitored for a minimum of three years.

“The obligatory stage is accompanying foster families. After the child comes to the family, in our opinion an even more difficult stage begins. At this time, professional guidance of psychologists and social workers is very important and this must be for at least three years. This includes family visits, meetings with specialists, etc. This also requires authority,” said Rakhimbayeva.

Ana Uii, founded in 2013, aims to create conditions for mothers in difficult life situations to keep their children and continue their lives independently or with their relatives after rehabilitation through the fund. It currently has two projects on the national scale and several in the capital. To date, the Ana Uii team has helped to find families for 949 children.