Adoption: the lowdown

by Tshepy Matloga-Malope
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Adopting a child is a life-changing decision that can bring immense joy and fulfilment to both the child and the adoptive parents, writes Tshepy Matloga-Malope.

Adoption is a traditional permanent placement option for children in need of care and protection. For many years it has been regarded as the most effective means of providing a safe, healthy family environment that is intended to last for a lifetime.

According to Stats SA, in 2022, there were 2.8 million orphaned children in South Africa. This includes children without a living biological mother, or father or both parents, and is equivalent to 14% of all children in South Africa.

The process of adoption has evolved over the years, with an increasing number of families opening their hearts and homes to children in need.

The adoption process is governed by the Children’s Act, which aims to protect the best interests of children and ensure that they are placed in loving and stable families. Prospective adoptive parents are required to undergo a thorough screening process, which includes interviews, home visits, and background checks to assess their suitability to provide a nurturing environment for a child. This process is designed to ensure that the child’s well-being is the primary consideration in every adoption placement.

Who qualifies to adopt children?

In South Africa, individuals who are older than 18 years can adopt a child under the following circumstances:

  • Spouses, partners in a life partnership (including same-sex partners), or others who share and form a permanent home together
  • Widowers, widows, unmarried or divorced individuals.
  • Persons married to the child’s parent, such as a stepparent.

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It’s important to note that a person’s financial status should not prevent them from adopting a child. The focus is on their ability to provide the child with a stable and loving home environment. However, if you are considering adoption, it is of course essential that you’re able to afford the basic necessities and essentials and take into consideration the responsibility placed upon you financially.

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Love and nurturing

One of the most powerful aspects of adoption is the love and support that adoptive parents give to the child. Tebogo and Luthando, a same sex couple, who adopted two children Lana (8) and Tumelo (5) when they were both babies, shared their experience: Tebogo expresses, “Adopting our children has been the most rewarding experience of our lives. We always knew that we wanted to grow our family through adoption, and the journey has been filled with love, challenges, and incredible growth.” Luthando adds, “Our children have brought so much joy and laughter into our home. We feel incredibly blessed to be their parents.”

For many adoptive parents, the decision to adopt a child is rooted in their desire to make a positive impact on a child’s life and provide them with the love and stability they deserve. It is a deeply personal and meaningful journey that requires compassion, patience, and resilience. Luthando emphasises, “We were drawn to the idea of providing a loving home to children who needed one. Our children have taught us so much about resilience and the power of unconditional love.”

Adoption challenges

Sylvia adopted Liam (12) as a baby as a single parent and did not find it to be without its challenges. She explains, “Having not carried Liam myself during pregnancy, I found bonding with him took much longer than I expected.” As a white woman with a black baby both mom and child have had to face scrutiny from other kids and parents. “Of course, we stick out—and now, we have learned to manage and even appreciate that, but at the beginning it was hard.”

Liam has been curious about his biological parents. “If he wants more details when he’s older of course, I will give them to him,” says Sylvia. It’s also been difficult to navigate Liam’s biological and genetic history when he’s been sick. “I don’t know everything about his parents: whether they had heart conditions, mental illness or cancer etc and that’s a little scary,” she explains. These are just some of the hurdles that may arise after adoption.

Read Adoption dos and don’t

How to adopt

How to adoptLocally, there are various avenues for adoption, including domestic adoption and intercountry adoption. Domestic adoption involves adopting a child who is a South African citizen, while intercountry adoption refers to adopting a child from another country. The South African adoption practice has recently been broadened to include the option of intercountry adoption. A good quality level of intercountry adoption service and practice is therefore ensuring that the best interests of children, who cannot be placed into suitable care locally, are addressed.

Charmaine and David adopted a child through intercountry adoption: “Our daughter’s journey to our family was not without its challenges, but the love and the bond that we share is indescribable” says Charmaine. She has enriched our lives in ways we could never have imagined.” David added, “Intercountry adoption comes with its own set of complexities, but the joy of welcoming a child into our family has been immeasurable.”

It is important to recognise that adoption is a lifelong journey for both the child and the adoptive parents. The process does not end once the adoption is finalised; rather, it marks the beginning of a new chapter filled with growth, learning, and love. Adoptive parents play a crucial role in providing support, guidance, and understanding to help their child navigate their identity and heritage.

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