Are you considering adopting a child in South Africa? Does your age, sexual orientation, relationship or HIV status affect whether or not you can adopt? Here all your questions related to adoption in South Africa are answered by the expert team at Abba Adoptions.
Who can apply to be an adoptive parent in South Africa?
According to the Children’s Act (Sec 231) you can apply to adopt:
• as a married couple
• as a single person
• if you are in a permanent domestic life partnership, and/or
• if you are living in a common household and form a permanent family unit.
• In a step-parent adoption you may adopt your partner’s child from another relationship
• A biological father whose child was born out of wedlock may apply to adopt his child
• Foster parents may apply to adopt the child that they are fostering.
• You need to be over the age of 18 years
• You need to be willing to accept full rights and responsibilities for the child.
• You need to be screened by an accredited adoption social worker to prove that you are fit and proper to be entrusted with the full rights and responsibilities in respect of a child.
Can single parents adopt in South Africa?
Yes you can – South African law does not discriminate against single parents. The screening process will specifically deal with your ability to cope with raising a child on your own. As a single person your support structures become vitally important in raising a child and this will also be examined with you. If you are successfully screened, a child will be matched according to the wishes of the birth parent(s), the needs of the child, and your specific ability to cope with a child as a single parent.
Can I adopt a child in South Africa without involving my live-in partner?
While the law does not prohibit this per se, it is discouraged as the partner will in all likelihood play the role of a parent in the child’s life and therefore will have to be included. The court will demand that your partner apply for a form 30 and Police Clearance as the child will become part of the household and must be accepted as such.
Can I adopt in South Africa if I’m HIV positive?
Just as adoptive parents feel the need to know the HIV status of the child, so those responsible for placing the child believe they should have this information. This also forms part of your medical screening as the social worker placing a child with you needs to know if you have a long-term illness that may affect your daily and future functioning. Your social worker will be more interested in whether the disease is affecting your day-to-day functioning than with the diagnosis itself.
Can same-sex couples adopt in South Africa?
Yes you can – The Children’s Act does not place any restrictions.
Am I too old to adopt a child in South Africa?
There is no perfect profile or age for a person to raise children and individuals will be evaluated on their suitability according to a holistic range of characteristics, such as health, support structure and motivation, with the child’s best interests in mind. Since an adoptive child has been exposed to some devastating losses in the past, your life expectation will be taken into account to safeguard the child – as far as possible – from future losses.
Can I adopt if I already have children?
This makes no difference to your eligibility to be an adoptive parent. It is considered a benefit to be able to place a child in a family where there are already siblings. Adoption service providers will, however, for sound reasons advise against disrupting the existing birth-order, i.e. adopting a child who is older than the first-born for example. It is also not advisable to adopt while you are pregnant as both children will miss out on individual time, which is necessary for bonding and building resilience to overcome adversity.
Will I be able to adopt more than one child?
Yes you can adopt more than once. There are some factors to consider:
• It is not advisable to adopt more than one unrelated child at the same time. Children need time to attach to the adoptive family and for this purpose need individual time to be able to catch on emotional milestones not reached due to trauma or previous placements.
• Good adoption practice would require that the children are not in the same emotional development phase where they have to compete for the same attachment behaviors from the parents. In practice this means that the children should have an age gap of around 2 years.
What are ‘identified adoptions’ and why are they discouraged?
Identified adoption, where parents have direct contact with the birth mother and have a pre-existing relationship prior to the commencement of services is not encouraged as it exposes all parties in the adoption triad to potential trauma and risks. It is of utmost importance that the birthparents have access to objective counselling to ensure that they are not making an emotional decision.
Further than this, the prospective adoptive parents should be aware of the potential risks, i.e. the legal adoption process that only starts after the birth of the baby and the fact that it could be exposed to unethical expectations from the birth family. It is therefore recommended that an adoption service provider should be involved in such a process as soon as possible to ensure that all ethical and legal considerations are taken into account.
YOU MIGHT LIKE: Parental rights and responsibilities in South Africa explained
Should I apply with more than one child protection organisation/adoption social worker to increase the opportunities to be matched with a child?
In accordance to the Code of Ethics for social workers, no dual processes are allowed between different professionals as it could lead to supersession. The Register for Adoptable Children and Prospective adoptive parents (RACAP) is a national network register kept by the National Department of Social Development with the aim to assist adoption service providers to discuss potential matches between them.
If a family cannot be matched within the organisation/adoption social worker they are contracted with, their details must be registered on RACAP so other adoption social workers have access to their matching preferences, which might lead to a network match with another adoption service provider.
Why is the adoption process in South Africa so complex?
The end result of adoption is that a child’s identity (name, ID number) changes. The court order reads “as if born from”. This is momentous and irreversible and legislation needs to ensure that it is done in the best interests of the child.
• Adoption is a legal process, involving time-consuming court procedures as well as other Governmental bodies that must follow a very specific legal framework and adhere to a number of regulations in order to ensure that the best interests of the child is served.
• Adoption is also a preparation process, parents need to understand the realities of adoptions as well as the emotional realities of the child.
• When the prescribed process is not followed correctly, adoption is often equated to child trafficking in the media, so compliance and scrutiny is necessary to protect the rights of the child.
Why does it take so long to adopt a child in South Africa?
The screening process is not only establishing whether a prospective adoptive parent is fit and proper, but is also a preparation process to ensure that parents are ready for the challenges of adoptions and equipped to deal with them. At Abba, this process normally takes between 4-6 months.
The waiting period for a child is closely related to the profile of child that parents have applied for. There are, for instance, more black children available for adoption than children of other races, which can increase the waiting time for a baby.
Expediency can, however, never be a factor when considering the length of a process as faster processes can often mean that not all legal requirements were met and this can have a negative effect on the outcome of the process. You should discuss the time frames with your social worker, but remember that this is a life-changing event that involves trauma for a child and therefore cannot – and should not – be rushed.
What should I consider before deciding to adopt a child in South Africa?
It is very important that you understand your own motivation for wanting to adopt a child. Do you have a sincere willingness to learn whatever it takes for your new journey? A positive motivation is wanting to be a family, a burning desire to have a child (not only a baby), to raise it and be parents, to pursue a permanent and unconditional, loving relationship with the child and being prepared to rise to the challenges that come with this commitment.
You should not be motivated by a purely emotive desire to rescue a child, build a bridge in society or the thought that bringing a child into your family will fix something that is broken in your relationship.
What does your support system look like? Do you have the support of your partner and extended family? Your child does not want to feel responsible for your failed relationship or being rejected by your family. Look at your world, and how a child will affect this world. Will the extended family welcome the child with as much love and acceptance as you?
How much does it cost to adopt a child in South Africa?
The cost of an adoption will be discussed in an individual session where your financial reality is taken into account. All fees are subject to regulation 107 in the Children’s Act (38/2005) that prescribes very specifically what amounts may be charged for specific tasks. Abba adheres to this very strictly. You can ask your social worker for a clearly detailed summary of the fees charged.
How does a stepparent/family adoption process work?
This is called related or disclosed adoption. They all result in the child’s identity and birth certificate being changed and there are three categories:
• Stepparent adoption. The applicant wants to adopt the biological child/ren of his spouse. The spouse, the other biological parent as well as the child if over the age of 10, needs to give consent to the adoption. The other biological parent’s consent is not necessary if his whereabouts are unknown and an advertisement will be placed in a local publication in an attempt to trace him/her. This is, however, a generalisation as all family situations are unique and your social worker will discuss your specific process with you. The applicant will be screened as an adoptive parent.
• Family adoption. An applicant wants to adopt the child of a family member who is either deceased, has given consent to the adoption or whose whereabouts are unknown. The applicant/s will be screened and the biological parent/s will be assisted in signing legal consent to the adoption, as well as the child if over the age of 18. If one or more of the parents’ whereabouts are unknown an advertisement will be placed in a publication in order to trace the parent. In most cases a post-adoption agreement will be drawn up to set the boundaries between the biological parents as well as the adoptive parents. The views of the extended family will be taken into account. A family adoption is not a way to add a child to your medical aid.
• Adoption from foster care. Applicants apply to adopt a child who has been in their foster care where there is no parental involvement or any indication that the child can be reunited with his or her family. The applicants will be screened and the social worker rendering re-unification services will have to report on services rendered and the long term prospects of re-unification before the court can consider the application.
What is the right way to approach adoption?
There are two important considerations to take into account: the emotional journey as well as the adoption process.
In terms of the emotional journey you need to take the following into account:
• Adoption is about more than getting a baby or child. It is a way of building a family that stems from trauma for all parts of the triad (child, biological system and adoptive parents). This means that there is much more to consider than one is aware of in the beginning of the journey. Your approach to the process must be above reproach as this will be part of your child’s story and may affect his/her identity should he/she be confronted with all the facts.
• Read stories of adult adoptees and hear their hearts so that you can understand what the issues are that have a negative effect on their sense of belonging and identity.
• Be prepared to have this child as a fully-fledged member of your family and that you will not refer to your child as an adopted child, creating distance and counteracting belonging.
• Take the views of siblings into account. Do not proceed until siblings are ready for the adoption.
In terms of the adoption process you need to consider the following:
• Adoption is a complicated legal process that needs to be handled according to specific guidelines. You should always work with an accredited adoption social worker or organisation who will guide you through the process. Private arrangements should be carefully monitored and are open to abuse from all parties as the identities of the parties are known to each other. You need the guidance of an accredited adoption social worker to protect both parties.
• Screening is always the first step in the process. Even if you find a birth mother who wants to place her child with you through an adoption process, please get in touch with an adoption social worker immediately.
• It is in the best interests of all parties concerned – the child, the birth parent(s) and the adoptive parent(s) – that an adoption is handled by an experienced professional to ensure that everyone’s rights are protected and their needs are met.
This article originally appeared on the website of Abba Adoptions – you can read it here.
Abba Specialist Adoption & Social Services (Abba) is a non-profit organization founded in 1983. We are a designated child protection organization with adoption accreditation for national and intercountry adoptions. We provide a range of direct services to abandoned, neglected, orphaned and vulnerable children who appear to be in need of permanent alternative family care.