Adoption dos & don’ts for adoptive parents

by Atiyya Gardee
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Did you know that there is a right way and there is a wrong way to adopt a child? We show you the right ways to grow your family through adoption. While adoptive parents face a timeous and emotional process of adoption, it is important to make a correct match between a child and parents, and the rights of the child are sacrosanct.

Abductions are a reality, as is dealing directly with a birth parent without an accredited social worker and accepting a child from a public servant without going through the legal adoption process. There have been cases of police officers asking people reporting an abandoned child if they would like to keep the child, or simply handing the abandoned child to people in the community who may have lost a child or expressed an interest in caring for abandoned children.

“The adoption social work team is completely responsible for making decisions about the child’s future.”

While individuals are required to sign an affidavit attesting to the fact that they are taking care of the child, no further formal legal processes are undertaken and the children remain in limbo, and highly vulnerable to abuse.

Such ad-hoc allocation of guardians to abandoned children is contradictory to the rigorous screening and government intervention that takes place during a formal adoption. Ultimately, we need to educate people that anything less than the right way to adopt amounts to child trafficking.

Adoption dos

In South Africa, there are two ways in which you can legally adopt a child:

  • By working through an accredited adoption organisation
  • By working through an accredited adoption social worker

Adoption don’ts

It is illegal to obtain a child in the following ways:

  • Through an ad on social media or any advertising medium
  • Through an unregistered baby home or place of care
  • Dealing directly with a birth parent without an accredited social worker
  • Accepting an abandoned child from a public servant, such as a police officer, without a court order and/or adoption order

Steps to finding the forever home for an adoptive child

Legal adoption in South Africa comprises five steps:

1. Application

  • The prospective adoptive parents must submit an application to the adoption organisation/social worker.
  • Each organisation has its own set of requirements, so it’s a good idea to phone the particular organisation 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 down the line.

2. Screening and preparation

  • All prospective adoptive parents are required to undergo a screening and preparation process.
  • This screening process normally involves orientation meetings, interviews with a social worker, full medicals, marriage and psychological assessments, home visits, police clearance and references.

3. Waiting list

  • Once the screening process is complete, applicants are placed on a waiting list for a child.
  • Applicants usually have their own ideas and wishes about the child they would like to adopt, like the age or gender of the child, and adoption organisations will try to meet those personal expectations.

4. Match made

  • It’s a very joyous and happy day when the new parents are informed that they have been matched to a child and arrangements are 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.

5. Legislation and finalisation

  • 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 deemed the adoption to be in the best interests of the child, the adoption is finalised through the Children’s Court.
  • A new birth certificate is applied for from the Department of Home Affairs, stating that the child is truly yours as though born to you, with all the same rights as a biological child.

Adoption organisations/adoption social workers are often criticised for all the red tape or making applicants jump through too many hoops. However, the adoption social work team is completely responsible for making decisions about the child’s future.

The rather involved process is, therefore, a necessity to ensure that the right parent(s) is/are chosen for every child – the parent(s) that will provide the child in question with the best possible home and family.

The screening process, in particular, 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.

If you are looking for an accredited adoption organisation or adoption social worker in your area, contact Add-option, South Africa’s national adoption resource centre, send an email to or call +27 (0)72 521 3429.

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