Sofian, a little boy who captured my heart – I hope he was able to be united with his forever family.

Maybe you have seen the news of late that there was a ban placed by the Moroccan ministry of Justice and Liberties on adoptions from Morocco to those living outside of the country. There has been little news to further clarify or explain the position that has been taken aside from the initial circular. The decree does state that only those who have permanent residency in Morocco will be eligible to file for the kefala, similar to custodianship in the US system. The reasoning behind this has been stated as,  “the adoption judges are unable to overhaul the ability of adoptive parents to cater for the child’s needs according to the Islamic principles in the case of non residents parents.” Currently this means the judge must determine if the applicants are financially secure and takes into account age, moral integrity and health condition as well as overseeing the parents to maintain that this is being fulfilled.

I get it. I get what the intentions are behind this and frankly it doesn’t surprise me.  The Justice Ministry is headed up by Mustafa Ramid, a member of the PJD or Justice and Development party, the Islamist party who has the majority rule in Morocco’s government. It’s therefore no surprise that much of the precedence for this decree comes from the fact they believe children should not go to homes that are not Islamic. Morocco’s adoption regulations have long insisted that adopting parents be Muslim. I am not nieve enough, nor am I foolish to think that many parents wishing to adopt Moroccan children become Muslim in name only to placate the system.  But here’s the bottom line.

Moroccans aren’t adopting children.

There are between 5000-6000 children abandoned each year in Morocco, for various reasons.  Only half of those children are adopted, either in country or outside the country. There is a HUGE stigma attached to adoption in Morocco. Some people don’t feel that it’s Islamic under any circumstance to adopt someone else’s child.  Others “take in” children but especially when it comes to little girls, end up turning them into servants. Then there’s the tiny percentage that truly want to take in a child and give them a home. Previous to this decree there were only a few orphanages in Morocco that would allow children to be adopted to American or European families.  Although I’ve been unable to find evidence, it seems that priority was given to prospective parents (PAP’s) from Islamic nations. It’s equally as difficult to find any information about the total number of children that were actually adopted by Moroccans, living in Morocco. My best guess is that they are a minority of PAP’s.

I recently commented on a post by the Moroccan American Forum for Relief and Development;

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10151165910757858&id=30028632857

It strikes me that so much of the weight of this argument is placed on a fear of child trafficking and even that some claim that no Moroccan wants to see this happen.  I would argue no person period wants to see this happen to any child.  That being said, the reason the majority of these children are placed up for adoption is because they were born to single mothers, or to couples who couldn’t afford to care for them.  That’s the real travesty.  The implementation of this decree won’t make any changes in society, it won’t shift attitudes or make these children accepted as a part of Moroccan society.

So what will this decree do?

 

Hurt Moroccan Children

Moroccan orphanages are chronically understaffed and underfunded.  Even the best private orphanages struggle to meet the needs of the children. At the orphanage we went to in Marrakech we were told that as soon as children are adopted there is another child to take their place. The degree of care varies by facility but most children, especially those who are still babies and toddlers spend a good portion of their day in their beds. The staff has everything they can do to meet the basic needs of their charges, let alone spend quality time, organize activities, or provide one-to-one affection and care. There are also many special needs children, who under previous circumstances faced an uphill battle to be adopted. I would argue this new decree makes their chance of finding a forever home, virtually impossible. There is so much stigma attached to adoption in general in Morocco, the adoption of a special needs child would truly take a remarkable family. Sadly, even this lacks a silver lining as Moroccan medical and educational infrastructure is not able to or prepared to handle special needs children. Their ability to survive and thrive is exponentially greater outside of Morocco.

There are so many questions that have not been answered.  Some of them include the fact that there is no provision or information offered to PAP’s who were already in the adoption process.  What about bi-national couples, such as my husband and myself? We live in the US but have Moroccan residency.  Would we be eligible to adopt? How does the ministry and the PJD in general propose to help create a life for these children who, without adoptive parents, will remain in orphanages until they age out? Do they intend to fund them better? Provide a foster care system? How exactly do these changes benefit the children?

To me, at the end of the day, this decree was political posturing that lacked any foresight.  The party has failed to truly realize what the best interest of these children are and instead take a “moral and religious” stand based on feelings instead of critically assessing the issue and making the best decision for Moroccan children.  Moroccan families are not banging down the doors to adopt orphans, and in many cases these children are a little secret that likes to be swept under the rug and forgotten.  I truly hope that the PJD leadership has time to reflect on the ramifications of their posturing and reconsider this decree to better serve the interests of the children they aim to protect.

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