November is World Adoption Month, a month often dominated by what adoptive parents think and feel about adoption. But how do South African adoptees view adoption? And how do they view the proposed changes to the Children's Act that may end adoptions in South Africa? These are their stories.
"There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children."
President Nelson Mandela
The current Threat to adoptions
The South African Constitution says that every child has the right to a family or parental care. In a country that has 2.8 million orphans and more than 3500 children that survive abandonment every year, this right is becoming harder to protect. Some children are being cared for by their family, but for others, especially those children abandoned at birth, and whose families are unknown, adoption is their only hope of becoming a part of a family.
Towards the end of 2018, adoption came under threat because of the proposed amendments to the Children’s Act. Adoption, which allows for a permanent change in a child’s legal and family identity, is a specialised social work practice, ethically and emotionally complex and time consuming. If the Children's Act amendments are accepted in their current form, our specialist social workers will no longer be able to charge professional fees, fund raise or even recoup their costs for guiding and faciltating the adoption process. Private social workers will be forced to stop offering this vital service and even those working for Child Protection Organisations, who are entitled to partial subsidies, will struggle to survive. Eventually only government social workers will be left to perform adoptions.
The process will then be fully supported by government social workers who sometimes, despite their best intentions, lack the expertise and tools to best serve the children they hope to protect. Additionally, considering that these government social workers currently have a case load of between 100 and 300 each, how can we expect them to handle such an increase in their duties? They are already overworked and under-resourced and with adoption figures already low and dropping yearly (there were only 1186 adoptions in the 2018) , we are likely to see a further decline. One expert has gone so far as to predict a complete end to adoptions within 2 years.
What is to become of our children? How will we protect those without the hope of a family to call their own? The truth is, they will be forced into long-term institutional care, and their best interests will become secondary. The spokesperson for Social Development has stated that the placement of children into unrelated families through adoption is no better for children who can’t be reunited with a biological family than institutional care. Global studies have shown profound negative effects for children growing up in institutions and the importance of permanent family care, so these options should not be equated. Removing or curtailing permanent family care as an option should never be considered in the best interests of the child.
But section 28 of our Constitution goes on to state that the child’s best interests should guide any decisions we make about them. In the absence of adoptions, how do we ensure that the best interests of all children, particularly those without kin, are upheld?
The answer is, we can’t!
What can you do?
- Please add your voice to our call to have further consultations which we hope will change how the Act will be amended. You can help by adding your name and email address to the petition below and also at Change.org;
- Agree to have your name attached to a letter addressed to the speaker of parliament requesting that the Bill seeking the changes be withdrawn and new consultations and comments be sought;
- Share the video;
- Mobilise your community to action and prayer for our children.
Should these amendments be passed, it would reveal a great deal about our society's soul.
#CHILDRENMATTERSA we must protect them and be seen to show we care!