FAQ – Adoptive Parents
Can I adopt as a gay/lesbian couple? Are there any restrictions?
Yes you can – South African law does not discriminate against gay or lesbian couples adopting. However, adoption agencies have their own criteria and will be upfront about whether they accept same-sex couples as applicants for adoption. 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 same-sex couple.
Can I adopt as a single parent? Does the criteria differ?
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 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. You are however, not compelled to disclose your status.
Can I adopt without involving my live-in partner?
While the law does not prohibit this, it is discouraged as the child will become part of the household and must be accepted as such.
Can I choose the child I want to adopt?
No, South Africa does not have a system where adoptive parents can consult a set of profiles from which to select a child, and the practice of visiting homes to see adoptable babies is discouraged. They can, however, express some desires and wishes regarding race and gender and the social worker will be aware of what your heart desires. For the most part, the birth mother will chose who she considers to be the best for her baby. It is important to begin the journey with the decision to adopt, and not as a result of seeing a child in need of a family.
Can the biological father take the child away?
When a birth mother plans an adoption it is a legal requirement that she informs the court and the social worker who the father is. If the father is known, he must be contacted and informed about the adoption process. He then has the right to adopt his own child. He will have to be assessed and found suitable to adopt. A decision will be made in terms of what is in the best interest of the child. If the father is unknown or cannot be found, his rights will be terminated.
Do I need to be wealthy to adopt a child?
No, finances are not a consideration for adoptive parents beyond their ability to sufficiently provide for the child. Legislation prohibits any discrimination due to financial grounds.
Do I need to earn a minimum salary to adopt?
No, but adoptive parents do need to have the means to be able to care adequately for the child.
How does a stepparent/ family adoption process work?
A typical scenario in this regard would be where a divorced couple / separated biological parents remarry and one party’s new spouse wishes to formally adopt their spouse’s child. Once again, the adoption agency will be approached and the biological mother or father will have consent to relinquishing their parental rights. If the child is over 11, he or she will also be asked for consent. The same adoption process will then be followed and processed by the Children’s Court.
How long does it take to adopt?
There is no specific period of time; every adoption is unique and the time it takes to complete will depend on several issues. For example, if you want to adopt a white or Indian child it will take longer as there are less of these children available for adoption. If you want to adopt a black child the waiting period may be shorter due to the fact that there are many children requiring placement. You should discuss the time frames with your social worker, but remember that this is a life-changing event that cannot be rushed.
I am 56 and single. Can I still adopt?
Yes – 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.
I don’t want to adopt a baby. Are there older children available for adoption?
Yes, and the same process applies to older children even though their circumstances may be different to those of new-born children and the legal process may be more complicated due to issues of parental rights and the family dynamic.
What are the considerations when adopting inter-racially?
When considering an inter-racial adoption you should begin by examining your own racial prejudices very carefully. Your social circumstances should be such that you are part of a racially-integrated community and that your family will accept a child of a different race. Furthermore, your decision will be carefully explored by the social worker who screens you.
What are the costs involved?
The cost of an adoption will depend on the adoption agency or social worker that you are working with. Make sure that you ask about fees upfront so that there are no surprises and disappointments later. Also note that adoption fees are regulated; the fees should only cover legitimate costs that have been discussed with your social worker and that forms part of your adoption contract. You should never be requested to pay over money directly to the birth parent(s).
What are the criteria to be accepted as adoptive parents?
According to the Children’s Act 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 addition, the following adoption situations may also arise:
- 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.
Each adoption agency and/or social worker may have specific requirements, such as religion or age. When you contact the agency/social worker, ask for their specific set of criteria. In general you will be required to be screened and assessed – this involves an in-depth process to determine your suitability to adopt.
What are the various birth parent scenarios?
Contrary to popular stereotypical beliefs, there are no typical circumstances that lead birth parents to make a decision regarding adoption. Some birth parents are young and still at school or studying, others do not have the support of their families, some are ill, some are unemployed, and so it goes on.
There are birth parents who already have children, understand what is involved in raising a child, and realise that they do not have the ability to raise another child.
Many South African mothers find themselves in the most disadvantaged situations with little education, no employment, being marginalised from their families, and sometime struggling with ill health as well.
However, if there is one thing all birth parents considering adoption have in common, it is there heartfelt desire to offer their child a chance at a better future – a future they know they cannot offer themselves.
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 agencies 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.
What is the right way to approach adoption?
Adoption is a very complicated process that needs to be handled according to specific guidelines. You should always work with an accredited adoption social worker or agency who will guide you through the process. Private arrangements should be carefully monitored and are open to abuse from all parties.
Screening is always the first step in the process. If you find your own birth mother who wants to place her child with you through an adoption process, please get in touch with a social worker immediately.
It is in the best interests of all parties concerned – the child, the birth parent(s) and the adoptive parent(s) – that an adoption is handled by an experienced professional to ensure that everyone’s rights are protected and their needs are met.
What questions should I ask myself before embarking on the adoption pathway?
- It is very important that you understand your own motivation for wanting to adopt a child. Do you have a sincere willingness to learn whatever it takes for your new journey? Positive motivation is wanting to be a family, a burning desire to have a child,to raise it and be parents, to pursue a permanent and unconditional, loving relationship with the child and being prepared to rise to the challenges that come with this commitment. You should not be motivated by a purely emotive desire to rescue a child, or the thought that bringing a child into your family will fix something that is broken in your relationship.
- Does your partner feel the same way?
- Look at your world, and how a child will affect this world. Will the extended family welcome the child with as much love and acceptance as you?
What resources are available if I would like to learn more about adoption?
There are many wonderful books available about adoption and for adopted children. For advice on adoption literature for your specific needs, please contact an adoption practitioner in your area via the ‘adoption professional search functionality’ on the left side of the webpage.
Also see Adoption stories for real-life accounts of peoples’ experiences of adoption.
What support structures are there?
When you adopt you should develop a network of support structures that will meet your specific needs. You can join an adoption support group online or in your area. It is also important to ask support from your family and friends.
What types of children are available for adoption?
At present, South Africa has many black children available for adoption. The ages of the children range from newborn to teenagers. The younger the child is, the easier it is to find a suitable family. As these children get older, they become more difficult to place. There are also many children with special needs who require families. These special needs may be that a child is HIV+ or has specific medical, physical or developmental problems. There are also white, coloured and Indian children available for adoption, however there are not as many of these children as there are black children who desperately need loving homes.
When and how can you tell your child he/she is adopted?
As an adoptive parent you may have very strong feelings about informing your child about his/her adoption. It is normal to feel anxious, overwhelmed and unsure about how and when to do this.
Research has shown that all adopted children should be told. The earlier, the better – it is recommended that the process of telling begins as soon as the child is brought into your family. There are specific guidelines which will assist you in this process. As part of your adoption process you must receive training about when and how to ‘tell’. Some basic principles are:
- never keep a secret,
- give the child as much information as he/she has asked for,
- give information that is age-appropriate, and
- always be respectful about your child’s roots.
Remember that this is your child’s information – part of your child’s unique life story – and as such forms an integral part of his/her self-concept.
Why is the process so complex?
An adoption is complex for a wide variety of reasons. However, in the main, it can be summarised as follows:
- Adoption is a legal process, involving time-consuming court procedures that must be followed to ensure each adoption is legitimate.
- An adoption is a process that changes the legal status of a child and therefore requires in-depth investigation and preparation.
- It is a life-changing event that impacts the lives of many people – the needs and rights of each person affected by an adoption must be considered and taken care of in the best possible way.
Will I be told the child’s HIV status?
Yes. The children undergo comprehensive medical tests and full reports regarding the child’s state of health are disclosed to adoptive parents.
Will I bond with an adopted child right from the beginning?
While some new adoptive parents feel an instant connection to their child, it is not always like this. It is natural that a period of adjustment may be required and that this follows a process. How quickly one makes the adjustment is largely dependent on the individual.