Adoption makes parenthood possible for those who struggle to have a child or who want to complete their family.

After 19 years of trying to conceive a baby of their own, Natalie and Phillip Swart of Johannesburg adopted their daughter in 2017. Working through a private social worker, the adoption process took less than a year for this couple. ‘Adopting Riley was the most amazing experience of our lives, but also the most emotional,’ says Natalie. She adds that there are plenty of misconceptions around adoption and she feels many people are put off adopting because of this. ‘However, it’s important to embark on this journey with an open mind,’ she says.
So, what steps do you need to take to successfully adopt a child in South Africa?

If adoption is the route you’ve decided to take, you will need to work through an accredited adoption organisation or a social worker who specialises in adoption. Prospective adoptive parents must submit an application, after which they undergo a screening process in which social workers will visit the home to check that it is a suitable environment for the child. Once their application is approved, they are placed on a waiting list.

Once a child is declared legally adoptable (there is no legal issue standing in the way of their adoption), a potential match is made with prospective parents, who are then given more information on the child. Legal finalisation of the adoption, registration and noting of adoption on the population register are the final steps to be taken. This can take up to a year or longer but in many cases the process is finalised sooner.

After the child has been in the new home for a period, and the social worker recognises the adoption is in the best interests of the child, the adoption is finalised through the Children’s Court.

Consent from biological parents can be withdrawn up to 60 days after legal consent is given. The Children’s Act also allows for cancellation – even after finalisation – if new information emerges that affects approval. So it’s best that children are only placed with families after the 60-day period and once all legal requirements are met, to avoid unnecessary stress.

‘The adoption journey for all parties involved can be challenging and complex but also very exciting,’says Pamela Wilson, a social work manager at Johannesburg-based Impilo Child Protection and Adoption Services. ‘Most adoptive children experience feelings of rejection or identity issues, curiosity about their biological parents and the need to search for them as they grow older.’ Adoptions can be disclosed or non-disclosed. With non-disclosed adoptions, the identities of the biological and adoptive parents are not revealed to one another.

However, if an adopted child, in years to come, wants to find out who their biological parents are and/or meet them, adoption agencies will usually help them to trace their parent or parents (although the biological parents can refuse a meeting).

The older the child being adopted, the more challenging it is for him or her. To help your adoptive child settle into their new home and family and feel secure, make their sleeping space inviting and comfortable, possibly with a ‘welcome’ treat on the bed. Take them on a tour of the home so they know exactly where everything is, and reassure them that if there is anything they are unsure of they must ask you whatever they want to know.

Also make extra time for family activities in the first few weeks, to give everyone a chance to get familiar and bond with one another. If you have other children, be sure to treat everyone in the same way and apply the same rules to all of them.

‘With the right support team and the right key players, your baby is out there, just waiting for you to find them!’ says Natalie.

Pamela Wilson of Impilo says that all adoption agencies charge a fee for professional services. These fees vary between different Child Protection Organisations and Accredited adoption social workers in private practice, but are usually on a sliding scale according to income. They also compare favourably to the costs of pregnancy and childbirth.

To find out how to begin the process of adoption contact:

The National Adoption Coalition of South Africa
072 521 3429 

South African Social Security Agency (SASSA)
0800 60 10 11

Impilo Child Protection
& Adoption Services
+2711 640 1343

*Readers in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland should seek advice on adoption from their local government authority.

Text Julia Lamberti-Morreira
THE ABC OF ADOPTION THE ABC OF ADOPTION Reviewed by Zandile Xabendlini on November 09, 2018 Rating: 5
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