Children left in limbo after change in adoption process

Irene Chang

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Nov 7: Bukit Assek assemblywoman Irene Chang wants the state government to be upfront about the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the adoption process for abandoned children whose parents are unknown and are unable to prove their ‘Sarawak connection’ to be legally adopted by their de facto parents.

She revealed that there were applicants who have been informed that their applications would be rejected as long as ‘Bukan Warganegara’ (not a citizen) is stated as the children’s nationality in their birth certificates, regardless of whether they can prove the Sarawak connection through their five-year residence or otherwise.

“This makes it impossible for these children to ever succeed in being adopted because it has been a practice for the past few years that as long as the biological parents are not able to be traced, these children would be categorised as ‘Bukan Warganegara’. Not ‘Bukan Ditentukan’ (Not Determined) as previously.

“There are criteria to be met for a successful adoption, one of which was that the child involved must be born in Sarawak and have a Sarawak connection,” she told the august House here when debating the 2020 State Budget today.

On Feb 2, 2017, Chang revealed that an official memorandum was issued by the State Attorney-General (SAG) to all district offices, that a child could prove a Sarawak connection by proving a five-year consecutive residence in Sarawak.

“Pursuant to the workshop conducted by Ministry of Welfare, Community Well-Being, Women, Family and Childhood Development on June 8, 2017, the Standard Operating Procedure which was compiled also included the five-year consecutive residence in Sarawak to prove Sarawak connection,” she said.

Chang however was shocked to discover that in December 2018, the Sibu District Office had rejected all adoption applications concerning abandoned children where there was no information on the identity and whereabouts of the biological parents.

“This was done despite the interested adoptive parents being deemed as fit and proper persons to adopt the child concerned.

“Later, we were informed that these applications were rejected by the District Office acting upon the official memorandum dated Nov 21, 2018 by SAG that abandoned children whose parents are unknown do not have any Sarawak connection,” she said.

Chang thus urged Minister Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah to clarify why the SOP was not followed to allow these families to prove the Sarawak connection of these children by proving the five-year consecutive residence in Sarawak.

“This has impacted all these abandoned children by denying them the opportunity to prove their Sarawak connection through their five-year consecutive residence; and thus, an opportunity for them to be legally adopted by people who have raised them since they were babies,” she highlighted.

“So what is the government’s plan for these abandoned children whose de facto parents are denied the opportunity to adopt them, just because they were abandoned and through no fault of theirs, that their biological parents cannot be located?,” she questioned. — DayakDaily