Kafala In Egypt: Interviewing Founder Youmna Dahroug

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If you’re following us on Social Media, you probably noticed that November is Adoption Month. According to SOS Children’s Villages International, there are about 1.7 million children in need of care in Egypt. ‘Kafala In Egypt’ or “Al-E7tedan fi Masr” is an organization (yet to be declared by the Ministry of Social Solidarity) deeply concerned with this issue. It aims to chip away false stereotypes and raise awareness about children in need of care in Egypt. In the last 8 months, there has been a significantly higher number of applicants for Kafala than ever before. We talked to Youmna Dahroug, founder of Kafala In Egypt to know more about this issue.

Youmna Dahroug is a ‘Kafala’ mother to her daughter “Laila”. She and her husband have been together for 11 years, they made the decision to take a child under their care in 2015 and executed it in 2018. Dahroug has been living in Dubai since 2018. She used to work as an HR and Administrative Supervisor and is currently a freelance life and relationship coach and the founder of ‘Kafala In Egypt’.

Youmna Dahroug & Daughter Laila
Youmna Dahroug, founder of “Kafala in Egypt” and daughter Laila.
Can you define the term ‘Kafala’ according to Egyptian Law?

The system was launched by the Ministry of Social Solidarity in 1959. It entails putting children deprived of parental care (specially with unknown parents) under the custody of families.  These families are chosen according to conditions and standards that ensure their eligibility for caring for these children without abuse or exploitation.

What would you say is the difference between Kafala, Adoption, and Al-E7tedan?

Adoption is putting the child under the custody of the adoptive family and having the child be part of the family’s lineage (taking the father’s family name). The child has a right to inheritance and all that adoption entails. Islamic Shari’a prohibits it.

E7tedan is the same as Kafala, however, it has a humanitarian meaning. Kafala is commonly practiced as providing donations to a care home to be spent on a child who stays in the care home. E7tedan, however,  entails putting the child completely under the family’s care for his/her entire life; s/he lives with the adoptive family and they are entirely responsible for him/her and s/he is treated as the parents’ biological child in terms of rights, duties, and all aspects of life (even breastfeeding). The child is not given the parents’ full name as is the case with adoption. However, the child’s name can have either the father’s first name, the mother’s first name or the family surname but not both first and family name. The Child’s first name can be changed according to the parents’ wishes.  The term “E7tedan” is used in all Arab Countries.

Why is E7tedan Important in Egypt?

It is important because about 19 children in need of care are found every day all over Egypt and there are significant numbers of children residing in unequipped care homes. Al-E7tedan allows the child to be cared for and equips him/her with the qualities of a good citizen.

“Just Imagine if there is no child in Egypt left untaught or uncared for, how different would our society be?” Youmna wondered.

What inspired you to take the ‘Kafala In Egypt’ initiative? What are your goals and what services do you provide?

“I made the decision the day I went to health centers and saw the children who were found after abandonment,” she stated.

They were in very poor conditions, the centers are completely unequipped, there was a huge number of babies in need of proper care and upbringing.

Our goals are:
  1. Assisting and providing services to families both wanting to take children under their care or those who have already taken the step.
  2. Raising awareness about Kafala in Egyptian society and correcting those false ideas about Kafala.
  3. Continually supporting Kafala families to carry out the breastfeeding process to its conclusion.
  4. Aiding the Ministry of Social Solidarity, solidarity directorates, and the Supreme Committee for Kafala Families (Al-Lagna Al-3olia lel osar al-badeela al-kafela) in developing laws and statutes regarding the Kafala system.
  5. Holding workshops, group discussions and gatherings for Kafala families to create a familial and healthy environment for every child and teenager
  6. Providing support to children returned to orphanages and care homes by Kafala families.
What are the challenges and difficulties you’ve faced?

We all work using our personal efforts, the team is made up of volunteers. Our biggest challenge is acquiring financial support. Furthermore, sometimes we stumble upon people who are stubbornly against Kafala and try to fight it with all they have. Another challenge is a prospective family that is uninformed and unwilling to cooperate or deal with their children in the scientifically healthy way.

“Society’s harsh perception of the families and the children are a big challenge,” she said.

From your perspective, why is Kafala uncommon in Egypt?

First of all, the fear experienced by families who are considering taking a child under their care plays a great role. They are sometimes ashamed to admit they are Kafala parents. Social norms and proverbs such as “Al-Erq dassas” or “Ya moraby f gheir waladak” and other false ideas breed fear into families who could be willing to take this decision.

Also, care homes/ orphanages benefit greatly from donations, so they are often unwilling to allow prospective parents to take the children home but prefer benefitting from donations and keeping the children under their ill-equipped care.

What are the conditions and procedures for Kafala in Egypt?
The procedures and documents needed are:
  1. A photocopy of the national ID number
  2. Criminal record certificates of both parents or the mother if unmarried
  3. Photocopy of graduation certificates
  4. HR Letter or proof of monthly income
  5. Virus B and C test results
  6. The presence of two guarantors to sign the contract held between the solidarity directorate and the prospective family as witnesses
  7. An apartment rent or ownership contract
  8. Photocopy of Gas and Electricity receipt
  9. Photocopies of biological children’s birth certificates (in the case of the presence of biological children in the family)
  10. Marriage certificate

Parents must provide these documents and agree to a home visit as part of a background check. They must double-check each document and be sure of their decision. The documents are submitted to a committee for reviewing and a decision is taken to approve of the family or not. In the final step, the family receives a viewing letter in order to choose their son or daughter. The procedures are concluded by signing the contract and opening an account with the child’s name with the amount of 3000 Egyptian pounds in the Egyptian Post or the Nasser Social Bank.

Conditions for Eligibility:
  1. Single, Widowed, and divorced women must be at least 30 years of age.
  2. Social and Ethical maturity of the prospective parents is necessary. They will be assessed by a background check carried out by the specialized social administration, association, or civil establishment. They must be married for at least 3 years. Moreover, they must be aged not less than 21 years or more than 60 years. (Sometimes there are exceptions to the age conditions).
  3. The family must reside in an appropriate neighborhood, where educational, religious, medical, and sports institutions are available. Homes must be endowed with proper health conditions.
  4. The family’s circumstances (including the availability of time) must allow for proper care of a child.
  5. The family must vow in writing to preserve the child’s lineage
  6. Both Parents must have at least a secondary education degree (or equivalent) (this condition may be waived after the background check).
  7. The family’s religion must be the same as that of the child’s and at least one parent must be Egyptian
  8. A prospective family cannot have more than three biological children.
From your perspective, what ideas need to change in the narrative surrounding Kafala in Egypt?

First of all, people need to know that it is not always the case that the reason for Kafala is an inability to have children! We should not link the caring of the child to the infertility of the family. In Kafala In Egypt, we encourage families who have biological children to take in children in need of care because it is important for a child to have siblings. This will help the child in his/her life, siblings are a support system.

People need to know that it’s not always the case that the reason for Kafala is an inability to have children! We should not link the caring of the child to the infertility of the family.

Furthermore, the idea that children in need of care are always the product of illegitimate relationships.

“There are many reasons why biological families abandon their children, the most important of which are poverty, ignorance, and lack of responsibility,” she added.

In addition, the idea that adoptive children will have “bad genes” must change. Kafala is not just a solution to infertility; it benefits both the child and the parents.

“Genes will not affect a child’s behavior or personality as much as the environment in which he/she grew up in will. A child raised in a healthy environment will aid him/her in becoming a good person,” Youmna explained.

What terms should we not use when talking about Kafala?

“Welad Zena” “kafalo 3ashan mabeykhalefoush” “matgawezetsh ra7et gabet tefl terabih” “3anes” “3aqima” “adoption/tabanny” “shelter/malga2” “orphan/yateem” “abandoned by his/her parents/Ahlo ramouh” “marmy fel zebala w el bala3at” “laqeet” “ebn 7aram” “ebn saffa7”.

What would you say to someone who wants to foster a child and is hesitant to take this step?

“The decision to take in a child in need of care is not easy, it is very noble but more importantly, it is not impossible,” she stated.

A prospective Kafala parent must be as informed as possible. Listen to other people’s positive and negative experiences, understand all the challenges you will face and know you will be good parents to your children.

Kafala is a beautiful blessing, children are the gift of life and the world. This will not be possible for you if you don’t have all the information or if you don’t know that children are a big responsibility.

“To raise a healthy child, you must always think 20 years ahead, arrange your thoughts well, take your decision, and we’ll be there to support you every step of the way,” Youmna concluded.

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