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Adopting an orphaned baby has become the latest celebrity craze. Angelina Jolie is probably better known these days, as the mother of three adopted children, than for her role as the über sexy Lara Croft from the Tomb Raiders. Pop icon and sex bomb, Madonna has also joined the ranks of celeb moms who’ve travelled to remote countries and returned home with a new bundle to love and care for.

For many ordinary couples though, adopting a child is not merely an act of kindness. It’s a decision they’ve had to make after years of heartbreak while struggling to fall pregnant with a child of their own.

Adopting a child is a long, difficult, and often frustrating process. But if you follow the right channels, adoption is incredibly rewarding.

What is an orphan?

According to the Department of Social Services, a child is considered for adoption, if it has been established by a children’s court that he is an orphan. By this, they mean that the child has no guardian or caregiver who is willing to adopt him and the whereabouts of his parent or guardian cannot be established. A child is also considered for adoption if he has been abandoned or deliberately abused or neglected.

So you’ve had a long discussion with your partner and you’ve agreed that adoption is the way you’d like to go. What do you do now?

Who do you go to?

Well, there are several avenues. Adoptions can only be facilitated through child protection organizations and social workers in private practice. Some of the organizations that take care of adoptions are AFM, Abba adoptions, Child Welfare Society, and the Catholic Women’s League.

Who qualifies to adopt?

The new Children’s Act stipulates that a person cannot be disqualified from adopting a child because of his financial status but every case is judged on an individual basis and the child’s needs, will take priority.

What’s the process?

Once you’ve approached an agency, a social worker will take you through several steps, which could take between four to six months. You’ll undergo several interviews, which will focus on infertility, your background, marriage, and home environment. They’ll also want to know more about your culture, extended family support, and finances.

A social worker will then visit you at home, to see for himself what kind of environment the child will live in. A week-long preparation course will take place and the child will then be brought to your home.

The agency will usually make itself available for around two years once the child has been placed with you, for support.

Relationships with biological parents

Adoption is meant to last a lifetime and the court order, granting you permission to bring the child into your family will terminate any relationship he has with his biological parents or guardians. You would however be allowed to make an agreement with the child’s biological family, to keep in contact.

Newborn babies

Many women would love nothing more than to adopt a newborn baby, whom they can nurture and love right from birth. But Social Welfare officials admit that orphaned babies are few and far between. There are far more older children who’re in need of loving and stable homes. Adopting a newborn baby isn’t impossible though. You would need to inform the relevant adoption agencies of your wish and they would try to help as far as possible.

Adoption and race

According to Welfare figures, there are more African children up for adoption than there are white children. South Africa has many children who need permanent homes and care and anyone, irrespective of their age, race and culture can adopt them, as long as they fulfill the Social Development Department’s requirements.

Adopting a child, who faces a future of being placed in foster homes, is an incredibly important and rewarding decision to make. Not only will you be fulfilling your wish of having a child to look after and love, but you’ll be giving a child a wonderful opportunity of having a rewarding, full, and happy life.

For more information on Adoption you can contact:

Ms. Kinsey Rasebitse
Social Work Manager: Adoption
Tel: 012 312 7396
Email: KinselyR@dsd.gov.za

Ms. Estelle Weideman
Principal Social Work Specialist: Adoption
Tel: 012 312 7635
Email: EstelleW@dsd.gov.za