Many people choose to become parents by adopting a baby, either because they cannot have children of their own or because they want to give another child a home and family. So what does adoption entail?
By: Dani Ndebele
Adoptive parents overwhelmingly report experiencing tremendous joy and satisfaction from adopting, and in most cases consider an adopted child as fully “theirs” as a biological child.
The decision to adopt is not taken lightly and usually involves much soul-searching on the part of the adoptive parents. There are many considerations including the race and age of the child, as well as the fact that you will have to undergo intense scrutiny to ensure your suitability as a parent.
The process of adopting can be stressful and frustrating, especially if it follows a long period during which a couple has tried to conceive and have had come to terms with not being able to.
Private adoption agencies offer services such as counselling of birth parents, counselling of couples, screening of applicants for adoption, adoption placements, international adoptions and home studies, family adoptions and post-adoption aftercare.
There have been many changes in South Africa regarding adoption in the past few years, including changing social and economic circumstances, birth fathers’ rights, a specified waiting period before finalising an adoption and the legalisation of abortions.
How does it work?
South African law requires that prospective parents be screened and every application is considered individually according to circumstances. The screening begins with an interview and involves a full psycho-social assessment by a social worker.
You will be required to furnish your social worker with various documents, your life history and photos of yourself. This becomes your profile and is subsequently used to match a child with the adoptive parents.
Once applicants have been fully screened and accepted as potential adopters, they are placed on a waiting list until a suitable child becomes available. The waiting period depends on what your parameters are in terms of the child you are looking for.
In a closed adoption, the adoptive parents have no contact with the birth mother and it is only the social worker who deals with her.
In an open adoption, the birth mother and the adoptive parents meet and have the opportunity to get to know each other. The adoptive parents also have a number of choices in terms of what they are willing to pay for and how they want to support the birth mother, including such things as court fees, social worker’s fees and medical costs.
As much as there are strict protocols and legal requirements, there is also a degree of flexibility that is supportive of the emotional and psychological outcomes of adoption. In some cases, the adoptive mother can opt to breastfeed with the help of medication and techniques to stimulate breastmilk production, and she can be present at the birth.
There is a window period of 60 days during which the birth mother can change her mind and ask for her baby back. This is a period of extreme anxiety for the adoptive parents.
Families often find themselves in circumstances where children need to be adopted by either step-parents or other family members. It is helpful to explore these issues with a professional person before embarking on the legal process.
What about the birth mother?
The decision to give a child up for adoption is heart-rending and takes great courage. It is important for the birth mother to avail herself of the counselling and other services available to ensure she gets all the emotional and practical support she is going to need.
Adopting a child is a difficult process but if you are armed with the right information, a strong professional and emotional support base and the right frame of mind, the journey towards parenthood can be made much easier.
Please note that we cannot publish any contact details in the comments below, for your own safety. Whether you'd like to give your baby up for adoption, or want to adopt a child, always work through a social worker.
Disclaimer: The advice on this site is for information purposes only. Please consult your health professional.