Are you longing to become a parent, or to extend your family, to provide a child with a loving home? Adoption could be the best option for your life, but it’s not necessarily an easy one. Before you embark on this journey, you need to consider the pros and cons. Adoption is a lifelong commitment that has the power to change lives forever – whether this is for the good or bad is up to you.
Questions to ask yourself
Adoption involves making deliberate choices and asking oneself important questions, including:
Can I accept and love as my own a child born to someone else?
Can I accept a child of a different race?
Can I become a parent to a special needs child?
Which of the children who need a family could we be suitable parents to?
Reasons to adopt
Every year, hundreds of people choose to pursue adoption for a variety of reasons:
some people have simply always wanted to adopt for as long as they can remember,
some would like to offer a child a better future,
some adopt because of infertility,
some just want to increase the size of their family, and
some are single and see adoption as a way of becoming a parent.
It is important to remember that adoptive parents are a resource for children who cannot, for whatever reason, remain with their birth families, and not the other way around.
Adoption is the legal process by which the rights and responsibilities for a child are given up by one set of parents and taken on by another. It is however much more than a legal process. It is also the creation of a family. It involves deep human emotions and has the potential to create great happiness as well as great disappointment.
Before you decide that adoption is the right plan for you, much thinking and discussion should take place. You need to consider carefully every aspect of adoption and scrutinise your own feelings about it.
If you are part of a couple, both of you need to feel convinced that this is the right decision for you before you introduce an adopted child into your family. Be aware that for adopting parents, the adoption process can take from 6 months to a year to complete.
Who may adopt a child in South Africa?
According to the Children’s Act (Act 38 of 2005), a child may be adopted
jointly by a husband and wife, ii. partners in a permanent domestic life-partnership, or iii. other persons sharing a common household and forming a permanent family unit;
by a widower, widow, divorced or unmarried person;
by a married person whose spouse is the parent of the child;
by the biological father of a child born out of wedlock; or
by the foster parent of the child.
The adoption process
In South Africa, the only way in which you can legally adopt a child is by working through an accredited adoption agency, or with the assistance of an adoption social worker functioning within the statutory accredited adoption system.
When working through an adoption agency, the process usually starts with the prospective adoptive parents submitting an application to the agency. Each agency has its own set of requirements – it’s a good idea to phone the particular agency to get their set of criteria before you actually apply in writing. Getting your application right from the start can save a lot of time later.
All prospective adoptive parents are required to undergo a screening and preparation process.Adoption agencies are often criticised for ‘all the red tape’ or ‘making applicants jump through too many hoops’. But if one considers that in most cases the social worker is completely responsible for making a decision about a child’s future, the involved process becomes a necessity to ensure that the right parent(s) is/are chosen for every child – the parent(s) that will provide the specific child in question with the best possible home and family.
The screening process normally involves orientation meetings, interviews with a social worker, full medicals, marriage and psychological assessments, home visits, police clearance and references.
The screening process allows social workers to get to know prospective adopters as a family, their motivation to adopt and their ability to offer a child a warm, loving and stable home.
Once the screening process is complete, applicants are placed on a waiting list for a child. Applicants have their own ideas and wishes about the child they wish to adopt – they can decide about the age and sex of the baby or child they would like to adopt and adoption agencies will try to meet those personal expectations.
It’s a very joyous and happy day when the new parents are informed that they have been matched to a child and arrangements will be made for them to meet the child. There is usually a period of introduction to the child, the length of time varying according to the child’s age.
The official placement of the child with the adoptive parents is a legal process, carried out through the Children’s Court. Once the child has been with the new parents for a period of time and the social worker has assessed the adoption to be in the best interests of the child, the adoption is finalised through the Children’s Court. The child then becomes the legal child of the adoptive parents as if the child was born to them and has all the same rights as a biological child.
For more information about adoption call 0800 864 658 or visit www.adoption.org.za for assistance and advice.