Former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan once said, “There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they can grow up in peace.” Indeed, there is no greater, no nobler a duty than that of raising and nurturing children – and closer to home, the people at OrphanCARE Malaysia Foundation have chosen to dedicate their time and effort in carrying out this very task the best they can.
Every child needs a family
On the origins of OrphanCARE Malaysia, Noraini Hashim who is the foundation’s trustee says, “OrphanCARE was first established in 2008 under the patronage of HRH Sultanah Pahang, Sultanah Hajah Kalsom. Four years after its establishment, it was granted approval to become a full-fledged foundation. Now, OrphanCARE is managed by a board of 6 trustees chaired by YB Tan Sri Faizah Mohd Tahir.”
So, what does OrphanCARE do exactly? Noraini explains, “We work closely with the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development to offer a refuge for unwed mothers and babies who may otherwise be abandoned. Also, we place children who are from institutions with suitable families and provide these families with the support they require to parent these children via counseling and ethical adoption services. Our aim is to provide orphans and abandoned babies in Malaysia with the love, care and security of a family.”
Some people may question the need for placing orphaned children with families. They may wonder ‘Won’t orphanages be good enough?’ Noraini begs to differ. “Extensive research has developed a body of evidence showing the harmful impact which institutionalisation has on kids. Kids raised in institutions tend to display significant delays in development and have behavioural problems. In fact, infants who are raised in institutions but moved to families before 6 months of age completely recovered from their development delays whereas those moved to families after 6 months of age recovered only partially.” This is why deinstitutionalisation projects like the one by OrphanCARE are so crucial.
“Via our deinstitutionalisation project, we strive to help change society’s mindset towards orphans so people will recognise that children shouldn’t be left permanently in orphanages. Orphanages should really only be ‘transit points’ before they are placed with families that can bring them up in a proper family structure,” she emphasises.
A safe haven for babies
Aside from its efforts to deinstitutionalise orphans into family-based care, OrphanCARE was the first to set up baby hatches in Malaysia. “OrphanCARE aims to discourage baby abandonment by creating safe havens for babies born out of wedlock to young mothers, who have kept their pregnancies a secret from their families. These young women who have nowhere to turn for help can be assured that their babies will be placed with caring parents. These ‘safe havens’ are in the form of 3 baby hatches located in Petaling Jaya, Johor Bahru and Sungai Petani respectively.”
“Additionally, we signed a Memorandum of Collaboration with the KPJ Group of Hospital in 2014 allowing us to arrange for adoption of babies at KPJ’s 8 baby hatches in Peninsular Malaysia,” Noraini says. “Since the launch of these baby hatches, we have successfully matched 136 abandoned babies with adoptive parents. Besides that, via our counseling programs, 82 mothers changed their minds and decided to keep their babies instead of giving them up.”
Meet the OrphanCARE team
Asked how she became involved in OrphanCARE, Noraini says candidly, “I’m one of the founding members. I was roped in by the late founder, Dato Adnan Mohd Tahir who strongly believed that every child deserves to be raised in a loving home.”
“Currently, the OrphanCARE team comprises 17 staff – 14 of whom are based at the 2 offices in Petaling Jaya with the remaining 4 staff in the Johor Bahru and Sungai Petani centres.” What about volunteers? “We are open to any helping hand from the community. Those interested can call our centre to register so we can update you on future events. Also, we welcome monetary contributions. You can do so via bank transfer at 86-0086023-8 or cheques made payable to OrphanCARE Foundation.”
So, what plans does OrphanCARE have for the future? Noraini divulges, “Raising more awareness about deinstitutionalisation is a big part of our plans. Open and clear communication is vital as very few understand what deinstitutionalisation means; this must be targeted at specific audiences involving a range of stakeholders. To bring our deinstitutionalisation program to greater heights, we will also be partnering with government agencies and other NGOs.”
She concludes, “A key provision in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that every child has the right, where possible to know and be cared for by his or her parents. With this in mind, we at OrphanCARE strive to ensure that a day will come when no child in Malaysia will be raised in an institution but in the loving care of a family or their community.”
How can I adopt?
On OrphanCARE’s adoption program, Noraini says, “Public response has been very positive. We receive phone calls and emails enquiring about our program on a daily basis. Currently, we have over 2,000 couples registered in our database. Out of these 2,000 couples, 752 are on the waiting list to adopt.” She adds, “There is also a great need for potential adoptive parents for older children as they are not as in demand as younger kids.”
On the eligibility to adopt, she stresses that couples have to be:
Married for at least 5 years
Childless, if they wish to adopt a baby. Also, they have to produce a fertility report
Residing in Peninsular Malaysia
Living in a safe neighbourhood
Healthy – both mentally and physically
With a combined income of at least RM5,000
If a couple fulfils all the above criteria, they can email their application to firstname.lastname@example.org The registration process will be handled by the OrphanCARE adoption team, followed by screenings, interviews and an 8-hour adoption training session.