Adoption Process: How Child Adoption in Kenya Works

  • There are times when the adoption process is exhausting and painful and makes you want to scream, but so does childbirth!

    Child adoption is brave, and often a hard choice for both birth and adoptive parents.

    It is reported that at least 300 adoptions happen in Kenya every year. Furthermore, seventy-five per cent of the adopted children do not know that they are adopted. 

    Although adoptive parents cannot be forced to disclose to their children that they were adopted, the best practice across the globe tasks parents with the responsibility of disclosing to foster children their biological parents.

    Foster parents are advised to keep journals on their adopted children until the time is ripe for the children to access it. This journal should have photos and text containing information from the time the parents decided to adopt the child.

    This article, therefore, attempts to shed light on the adoption process in Kenya and the parties involved. 

    What is child adoption?

    Adoption is the legal process by which a child becomes the child of persons other than his/her natural or biological parents. 

    When a child is legally adopted the adopter or adopters become the child's parent(s). 

    Legal adoptions permanently transfer all rights and responsibilities, along with filiation, from the biological parent or parents. 

    Law governing child adoption in Kenya

    Both the Constitution and the Children’s Act are instructive in matters of child adoption in Kenya. 

    In any matter concerning a child, the child’s best interests are of paramount importance as set out under Article 53 (2) of the Constitution.

    Section 4 of the Children’s Act also stipulates that in all actions concerning children whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

    The High Court is vested with the jurisdiction to make adoption orders pursuant to Section 154 of the Children’s Act. 
    Children matters are heard in chambers for purposes of protecting the identity of the child and that of the adoptive parent(s).

    Requirements for adopting a child in Kenya

    a) The child’s birth certificate

    b) If the child is a school going child, a copy of the school progress report

    c) A children officers report

    d) Death certificate if the child’s parents are deceased

    e) Chief’s letter

    f) Copies of identification documentation of prospective adoptive parents

    g) Marriage certificate for the couple wishing to adopt

    h) Medical report of the adoptive parent

    i) Proof of financial statuses such as bank statements and pay slips

    j) Proof of home ownership

    k) Birth certificates of any children the adoptive parent may have

    l) Certificates of good conduct. 

    Eligibility for adopting a child

    1. In Kenya, a child cannot be adopted unless the child is at least six (6) weeks old and has been declared free for adoption by a registered adoption society.  

    Accordingly, in Kenya, no individual or other bodies of persons can legally make any arrangement for the adoption of a child. 

    Consequently, informal adoptions are illegal and constitute an offense under the Act. 

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

    Further, under section 157 (1) of the Act, an application for an adoption order can only be made if the child concerned has been in the continuous care and control of the applicant (adopter) within Kenya for three (3) consecutive months preceding the filing of the application. 

    Eligibility for adopting a child

    1. An adoption order may be made upon the application of a sole applicant or jointly by two spouses. 

    2. The applicant or at least one of the joint applicants must have attained the age of 25 years and be at least 21 years older than the child but should not have attained the age of 65 years. 

    Note, however, that the age requirements are not mandatory where the applicant is the mother or father of the child or is otherwise a relative of the child. 

    3. Generally, section 158 (2) of the Act disallows the making of an adoption order in favour of a sole male applicant in respect of a female child; and a sole female applicant in respect of a male child.

    Presumably, the prohibition is aimed to protect adopted children from potential sexual abuse. 

    4. where the applicant is a sole foreign female, an adoption order will generally be denied. It is not clear why the same is not the case for sole foreign males. 

    Note: An adoption order will in all the above circumstances be made to the applicants if the court is satisfied that there are special circumstances that justify the making of the order. 

    Persons not allowed to adopt in Kenya

    Section 158 (3) of the Children’s Act, prohibits the making of an adoption order in favour of an applicant who:

    1. Is not of sound mind within the meaning of the Mental Health Act (Cap. 248); or

    2. Has been charged and convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction for any of the offences set out in the Third Schedule to the Act or similar offences.

    The prescribed offences generally include defilement, sexual offences, immoral behavior, attempt to procure abortion, unnatural offences; and assault.

    3.Is a homosexual;  Accordingly, homosexuality is illegal in Kenya hence the prohibition of gay persons from adopting children. 

    4.  In the case of joint applicants, if they are not married to each other; or
    5. Is a sole foreign male applicant.

    Consents needed for adoption in Kenya

    1. Consents that will be needed before the adoption is finalized include:

    2. The child's consent if he or she is 14 years and above

    3. Consent of guardians/ parents or the person with whom parental responsibilities lie with

    4. Consent of the courts or relevant government authorities from their country in case of non-residents.

    There are certain instances where consent for adoption can be withheld.

    I.) First is when the parents or guardians are untraceable because the child was abandoned.

    II.) It is also possible to withhold consent if spouses are permanently separated. 

    How to adopt a child in Kenya

    Local adoption

    1. Surrender of child to adoption society

    a. Where appropriate as the case may be, the parent or guardian places the child who is to be potentially adopted, at the disposal of a registered adoption society.

    b. The parent or guardian is issued with an explanatory memorandum in the prescribed form whereon a certificate of acknowledgement is attached.

    c. The parent or guardian must sign and deliver to the society a certificate of acknowledgement in the prescribed form indicating that he has read and understood the memorandum.

    d. The adoption society thereafter accepts the child.

    2. Application

    a. A prospective adopter forwards an application for adoption to the registered adoption society.

    b. The society obtains a social worker who makes an appointment to visit the applicant’s home for purposes of knowing the prospective adopter better and to assess his accommodation to determine its suitability for the child.

    c. After the visit, the social worker makes a report of his assessment in the form prescribed under the Schedule to the Adoption Regulations.

    d. The adoption society also makes arrangements to obtain a medical report on the health of both the child and the adopter in the prescribed forms.

    3. Application assessment

    a. The Case Committee of the adoption society vets the application together with the social worker’s report and the health report of the child and the adopter.

    b. The Committee then makes a decision to approve the application or to defer or reject the same with stated reasons.

    c. The approval intimates that the child is free for adoption and approves the adopter.

    d. Once the adopter has been approved by the case committee, the adopter is required to read and understand the explanatory memorandum for adopters prescribed in the Regulations and sign the certificate of acknowledgement attached to the memorandum.

    4. Placement

    a. Upon approval of the application, the child is delivered into the care and possession of an adopter by or on behalf of an adoption society.

    b. The child is visited in the first month and at least once in every three months thereafter by a representative of the society, who reports on the case to the case committee.

    c. The Committee may recommend appropriate action to be taken in the event that the child is not being taken care of properly.

    5. Legal process

    a. The adopter makes an application for an adoption order to the High Court of Kenya.

    b. The court may on its own motion or upon the application of the adopter, appoint a guardian ad litem for the child pending the hearing and determination of the adoption application.

    c. The court may reject the application. The adopter may appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal.

    d. The court may grant the adoption order which is then registered by the Registrar-General through making an entry in the Adopted Children Register.

    International (Inter-country) adoptions in Kenya

    Inter-country adoption is a process by which an individual can adopt a child from another country and bring the child to your country of residence to live with you permanently.

    On 27th November 2014, however, the government declared an indefinite moratorium on Inter-country adoption of Kenyan children to foreigners.

    The decision was informed by Kenya’s ranking by the Global Report on Trafficking in persons 2014, that had the United Nations Office on drugs and crime cite Kenya as a source, transit & destination country in human trafficking. 

    Time taken to complete an adoption process

    The average time for an adoption process takes about 6 months.

    Cost of adoption in Kenya

    The cost of adopting a child varies greatly depending on a number of things.

    First, the adoption society you choose has a charge for facilitating the process. This cost varies from one place to another.

    Secondly, the charges will also depend on whether or not you represent yourself in court or you use a lawyer. 

    The standard fee for most agencies is however Ksh12,500. 

    Note: In most cases, families have been approved for adoption even with low income which goes to show that adoption in Kenya is not about money.

    Adoption agencies in Kenya 

    1. Buckner Kenya Adoption Services


    Address: Hurlingharm, Nairobi, Kenya. Off Lenana Road, Plot No. 10

    Phone: +254202713001, +254733713001, +254710287302


    2. Kenya Children’s Home


    Address: P.O. Box 44261-00100 Langata Road, Nairobi, Kenya

    Phone: 00254 6001 922, 00254 6002 002 

    Email:, Child Welfare Society of Kenya


    3. Child Welfare Society of Kenya

    Address: Child Welfare Building Langata Road, P.O. BOX 43982-00100 Nairobi, Kenya

    Phone: 0206003301 / 6006391


    4. Kenyans to Kenyans Peace Initiative


    Address: Kogo Star Plaza, Upper Ground Floor, Suite 14, Maai Mahiu Road (Next to Langata/Mbagathi Roundabout)

    P.O. Box 30906, GPO 00100 Nairobi

    Phone: +254 206 004 461

    Mobile:, +254 725 475 208, +254 734 257 334


    5. Little Gems Agency

    Address: PO Box 23 North Kinangop, Kenya

    Phone: 050 502321, 0722801422

    6. Little Angels Network


    Address: Wood Avenue – Kindaruma Road Junction Off Ngong Road Nairobi, Kenya

    Phone: 0724 941326


    Reasons why people adopt children

    Adoption is a highly personal decision. Every choice to adopt is unique. Every couple and individual has walked a different path in arriving at their decision. 

    However, here are some common themes when it comes to adoption:

    1. To overcome infertility

    One of the most common reasons people choose to adopt is because infertility stands in the way of their dreams of having a family.

    Adoption allows hopeful parents the opportunity to have the family they’ve always wanted.

    2. To protect their health

    Even if you do not specifically face infertility issues, conditions such as heart disease or epilepsy may result in your doctor suggesting that pregnancy may not be a good idea.

    With adoption as an option, such conditions need not stand in the way of your ability to have a family.

    3. Because they love caring for children

    For some people, caring for children is in their blood. It’s something that is so deeply ingrained in them, they adopt simply for the love of providing a good life to a child (or many children).

    4. To balance population growth

    Some who desire a family find that that desire comes into conflict with their belief that overpopulation is a major global problem.

    Adoption provides them with an opportunity to fulfill their desire to have a family while also staying true to their beliefs.

    5. To choose the sex of their child

    For couples who desire a child of a certain sex (especially if they’re already tried once or twice and did not have a child of the sex they had hoped for), adoption allows them to expand their family in the way they desire.

    There is no rolling the dice and hoping for the best; they can adopt a child of the sex they desire without relying on the whims of Mother Nature.

    6. To avoid passing down genetic disorders/diseases

    People who wish to have a family but fear to pass on genetic disorders they suffer from or that run in their family can do so by adopting.

    This allows them to experience the joy of having a family without the anxiety of potentially passing on an ailment that runs in the family.

    7. To help a child in need

    Some families adopt because they personally know a child in need. Perhaps the child’s was orphaned, or his/her parents cannot care for them (the reasons for this could be one of many, such as addiction).

    Whatever the reasons, they may choose to adopt a child in order to help lift them from their situation.

    8. To avoid pregnancy complications

    Some women are predisposed to having difficult pregnancies, or due to other issues (such as having had multiple cesarean births) may be at risk for a difficult pregnancy.

    For those women, adoption may be a safer option that gives them greater peace of mind.

    9. To become parents

    The most simple reason of all, and yet also the most important of all. Many people adopt because they want to become parents.

    That’s it. They want to share their life with someone, and adopting is their best route to fulfilling that dream.


    I would advise that you seek independent legal advice from an advocate who will be able to advise you on the particulars of your situation. Thanks. 


    Child Welfare Society of Kenya

    Kibatia & CO. Advocates

    Africa Gospel Church Baby Centre