The adoption process
In South Africa, the only way in which you can legally adopt a child is by working through an accredited adoption agency, or with the assistance of an adoption social worker functioning within the statutory accredited adoption system.
When working through an adoption agency, the process usually starts with the prospective adoptive parents submitting an application to the agency. Each agency has its own set of requirements – it’s a good idea to phone the particular agency 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 later.
All prospective adoptive parents are required to undergo a screening and preparation process. Adoption agencies are often criticised for ‘all the red tape’ or ‘making applicants jump through too many hoops’. But if one considers that in most cases the social worker is completely responsible for making a decision about a child’s future, the involved process becomes a necessity to ensure that the right parent(s) is/are chosen for every child – the parent(s) that will provide the specific child in question with the best possible home and family.
The screening process normally involves orientation meetings, interviews with a social worker, full medicals, marriage and psychological assessments, home visits, police clearance and references.
The screening process basically 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.
Once the screening process is complete, applicants are placed on a waiting list for a child. Applicants have their own ideas and wishes about the child they wish to adopt – they can decide about the age and sex of the baby or child they would like to adopt and adoption agencies will try to meet those personal expectations
It’s a very joyous and happy day when the new parents are informed that they have been matched to a child and arrangements will be 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.
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 assessed the adoption to be in the best interests of the child, the adoption is finalised through the Children’s Court. The child then becomes the legal child of the adoptive parents as if the child was born to them and has all the same rights as a biological child.