What are the criteria to be accepted as adoptive parents?
According to the Children’s Act (Sec 231) you can apply to adopt:
- as a married couple,
- as a single person,
- if you are in a permanent domestic life partnership, and/or
- if you are living in a common household and form a permanent family unit.
- In a step-parent adoption you may adopt your partner’s child from another relationship.
- A biological father whose child was born out of wedlock may apply to adopt his child.
- Foster parents may apply to adopt the child that they are fostering.
- You need to be over the age of 18 years
- You need to be willing to accept full rights and responsibilities for the child.
- You need to be screened by an accredited adoption social work to prove that you are fit and. proper to be entrusted with the full rights and responsibilities in respect of a child.
Can I adopt as a single parent?
Yes you can – South African law does not discriminate against single parents. The screening process will specifically deal with your ability to cope with raising a child on your own. As a single person your support structures become vitally important in raising a child and this will also be examined with you. If you are successfully screened a child will be matched according to the wishes of the birth parent(s), the needs of the child, and your specific ability to cope with a child as a single parent.
Can I adopt without involving my live-in partner?
While the law does not prohibit this per se, it is discouraged as the partner will in all likelihood play the role of a parent in the child’s life and therefore will have to be included. The court will demand that your partner apply for a form 30 and Police Clearance as the child will become part of the household and must be accepted as such.
Can I adopt if I’m HIV positive?
Just as adoptive parents feel the need to know the HIV status of the child, so those responsible for placing the child believe they should have this information. This also forms part of your medical screening as the social worker placing a child with you need to know if you have a long term illness that may affect your daily and future functioning. Your social worker will be more interested in whether the disease is affecting your day to day functioning than the diagnosis itself.
Can I adopt as a same sex couple? Are there any restrictions?
Yes you can – The Children’s Act does not place any restrictions
When am I too old to adopt?
There is no perfect profile or age for a person to raise children and individuals will be evaluated on their suitability according to a holistic range of characteristics, such as health, support structure and motivation, with the child’s best interests in mind. Since an adoptive child has been exposed to some devastating losses in the past, your life expectation will be taken into account to safeguard the child as far as possible from future losses.
What if I have children already?
This makes no difference to your eligibility to be an adoptive parent. It is considered a benefit to be able to place a child in a family where there are already siblings. Adoption service providers will, however, for sound reasons advise against disrupting the existing birth-order, i.e. adopting a child who is older than the first-born for example. It is also not advisable to adopt while you are pregnant as both children will miss out on individual time which is necessary for bonding and building resilience to overcome adversity.
Will I be able to adopt more than one child?
Yes you can adopt more than once. There are some factors to consider:
- It is not advisable to adopt more than one unrelated child at the same time. Children need time to attach to the adoptive family and for this purpose needs individual time to be able to catch on emotional milestones not reached due to trauma or previous placements.
- Good adoption practice would require that the children are not in the same emotional development phase where they have to compete for the same attachment behaviors from the parents. In practice this means that the children should have an age gap of around 2 years.
Why are identified adoptions discouraged?
Identified adoption, where parents have direct contact with the birth mother and have pre-existing relationship with prior to the commencement of services is not encouraged as it exposes all parties in the adoption triad to potential trauma and risks. It is of utmost importance that the birthparents have access to objective option counselling to ensure that they are not making an emotional decision. Further than this, the prospective adoptive parents should be aware of the potential risks, i.e. the legal adoption process that only start after the birth of the baby and the fact that could be exposed to unethical expectations from the birth family. It is therefore recommended that an adoption service provider should be involved in such process as soon as possible to ensure that all ethical and legal considerations are taken into account.
Should I apply at more than one child protection organisation/adoption social worker to enlarge the opportunities to be matched?
In accordance to the Code of Ethics for social workers, no dual processes are allowed between different professionals as it could lead to supersession. The Register for Adoptable Children and Prospective adoptive parents (RACAP) is a national network register kept by the National Department of Social Development with the aim to assist adoption service providers to discuss potential matches between them. If a family cannot be matched within the organisation/adoption social worker they contracted with, their details must be registered on RACAP so other adoption social workers have access to their matching preferences which might lead to a network match with another adoption service provider.