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mages of forlorn, starving children, lined up along a dirt road, dressed in tattered clothing, without shoes, covered in mud – this is what we think when we think of Africa. We think of crowded orphanages, families of 10 living in tiny mud huts and trash dotting the hopeless brown horizon. Those pictures are not completely inaccurate. Africa is still a lot of these things. But in the midst of extreme poverty, disease and malnourishment, Buckner Kenya is working tirelessly to change the state of child welfare in the country. Over the past few decades, Buckner leadership has found children who grow up in institutions or without a strong family presence are significantly behind their peers and are more likely to end up in poverty, unable to meet their own daily needs and often have shorter life expectancies. There is a solution to end the cycle of hopelessness: Children need to be in families.

But how can you communicate that to a continent that believes foster

care and adoption are bad? In Africa, the stigma of raising a child who is not in your bloodline runs deep.

Many believe the inability to have children is a curse on the mother, and adoption is simply “buying” a child. Others see having a non-related child in the home as an opportunity for a domestic worker. These are just a handful of challenges the Buckner adoption staff in Kenya face every day. Buckner Kenya has taken the lead in the adoption initia- tive, educating and helping organizations, lawmakers and top government officials. In fact, these four families (see page 28) are the first in-country adoptions outside of the United States finalized by Buckner International. “I think when the government legalized adoption agencies to do adop- tion and these agencies began creating awareness among communities, we realized people’s misconceptions were just a lack of information,” said Dickson Masindano, country director of Buckner Kenya. “There is a stigma around adoption that is a lot stronger than it is in foster care. There is a strong sensation problem where now the government is talking openly about it and many, many people who have adopted are speaking

openly about it, particularly those who already have their own children.” The caseworkers have worked to make adoption accepted in Kenyan culture. They’re making progress but still have a long road to travel. “The perception is changing, especially when we have parents who already have birth children making the decision to adopt,” Masindano said. “They strengthen the adoption process. And even now those who don’t have their own children don’t find it so stigmatizing to adopt, because it looks like a normal process.” Before Buckner stepped in, adoption had no formal process and no guidelines for families, let alone training and education about how to raise adopted children. With the help of the government and media, adoption is becoming less of a taboo and something better understood. “It’s about just talking, creating an opportunity for people to listen to what adoption is,” Masindano said. “When people understand, then they change the way they think. And when the government began, about four or five years ago, legalizing the adoption process through agencies, private agencies, knowledge has now grown.” The small staff of three social workers works with families and other

“child stakeholders,” as they call them. They’re going deep in communi- ties to talk about adoption, where children are coming from and likely to end up in orphanages. They’re talking to people in the communities where children are most likely to be abandoned. Looking at the number of Africans who want to adopt, the information

is starting to take effect, Masindano said. “At Buckner, we see adoption as a very good thing because it is an

opportunity for a child to live in a family,” Masindano said. “We are very much aware there are so many children who are yearning out there to have a family, just to be in a family. “So this is the best opportunity for the child to get into a loving family in their lifetime. And there are so many children in Kenya who don’t have families, who are either in orphanages or just, you know, living out there, and they are looking for an opportunity to live in a family.”

26 Buckner Today • FALL 2015 ISSUE

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