Over 260 children adopted in two years

Over 260 children adopted in two years

Brunei residents have adopted more than 250 children in the past two years, said the acting assistant director of Community Development Department (JAPEM).

Hjh Siti Aynah Hj Mohd Yaakub said 133 Bruneians and foreign children were adopted in 2013 and 134 last year.

She told The Brunei Times that many Bruneian couples who are unable to conceive chose to adopt children, regardless of where the child came from.

The acting assistant director went on to say that there is no legal limit on the number of adopted children a couple or individual can adopt, as long as they have the financial capability to raise them.

She said there is no adoption agency in Brunei where parents or individuals can seek services such as facilitating the placement of orphans or abandoned children for adoption.

Hjh Siti Aynah said interested parties usually go about finding people who are willing to give their child up for adoption themselves.

In Brunei, it is illegal to pay the biological parent(s) to adopt a child, she said.

"The biological parents are not even allowed to ask for payment for her medical fees for birth. It is up to the adopted parents whether they themselves would like to pay for it or not," she said.

The acting assistant director said it is part of the Bruneian culture where many parents who adopt give the biological parents gifts (sedekah), either in the form of an object or money.

"Giving the sedekah is alright, because it is a part of our culture. However, if the biological parent(s) ask for a sum of money, then it is considered selling the child and that is illegal," she explained.

For Muslim spouses who intend to adopt, they are required to apply for an adoption at the Syariah Court, while non-Muslim parents have to apply through the civil court.

According to the Islamic Adoption of Children Order 2001, the applicant or in the case of an application by two spouses, one of them must be 25 years of age, or is at least 18 years older than the child, unless the Syarie judge is satisfied that there are special circumstances.

In Brunei, no application for adoption can take place until the child has been in the care of the prospective adopted parents for six months, said Hjh Siti Aynah.

"This is in place to make sure the child and adopted parents had time to bond; that the child will not return to his or her biological parents; to make sure the biological parents do not change their mind about giving their child up for adoption; and to make sure the adopted parents are able to take care of the child," she said.

Anything can happen if this procedure is not in place, added Hjh Siti Aynah.

She explained that after the respective court has received the application following the six months, they will make the referral to JAPEM to investigate how much the couple or individual is earning as well as pay home visits. The investigation usually takes about two months.

"Once we receive the memo from the respective civil or Syariah court, then we will process the application for adoption," she added.

The adoption applicant(s) will have to bring along documents such as their marriage certificates, she said.

After sending in their applications to the court, applicants have to send information of their respective family background to JAPEM.

The acting assistant director said the procedure also applies to applicants who intend to adopt children from abroad.

They will have to abide by the six-month interim period, starting from the application for adoption in the respective country from where the child is from.

Hjh Siti Aynah further said there are no reported cases of informal adoption in Brunei.

She said JAPEM does not do regular follow-ups on each adopted child after the child has been legally adopted.

The department only pays home visits to produce reports and find out whether the family is fit to care for the adopted child, only when JAPEM is referred by the respective court to do so.

Hjh Siti Aynah said JAPEM encourages any parents to come forward and "temporarily adopt" a child who has been placed at JAPEM's welfare home.

She said there are children below the age of 18, who have been taken under the care of JAPEM because they may have been abused or did not have a stable home environment.

"If anyone is willing to open up their homes to show these children what a normal family life is about, please come forward and temporarily adopt them," she said.

When these children reach the age of 18 and wish to continue staying with the family, they are still able to do so.

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