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Adoption delays irk parents

Published Jul 29, 2011

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Karen Wilson enjoyed dancing for a ballet company, working as an aerobics instructor and slinging her bag over her shoulder to rush out for an impromptu shopping trip.

But the 47-year-old fiercely-independent primary school teacher’s world was turned upside down when she set eyes on Aphelele Nzimande, a two-month-old “little angel” who crept into her heart, resulting in her taking on the biggest adventure and responsibility of her life.

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Motherhood. In fact, single motherhood.

Yet there is one snag she is battling to overcome, as are her close friends, Helen and William Colledge, with Siyabonga Kheswa.

They are parents in every sense of the word - loving, sheltering and providing - but on paper they are merely a “place of safety” for their children, a dilemma they have done everything in their power to fix.

And now it seems they will have to start all over again as it appears that either the court or the social worker bungled the application by using the incorrect forms.

“I have had Aphelele for 14 months, yet I am still not able to show any final adoption papers. All I have is a piece of paper saying I am “a place of safety” for my child. Luckily, they both (Aphelele and Siyabonga) attend daycare at the school where I teach, otherwise trying to get him enrolled in pre-school would have been impossible without documentation,” Wilson said.

Both adoptive parents met their children after Helen Colledge took them in as a crisis mother. Both sailed through the screening tests and were allowed to keep the children while the paperwork was being finalised.

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However, Wilson says they have been pushed from pillar to post between a social worker in Verulam and the Department of Social Development in Pretoria.

“Our family had hoped to go on a cruise last year, but when enquiries were made as to how far along the adoption process was so that I could get him a passport, we realised just how slowly things were moving. I had to ring Pretoria for a reference number, which was apparently what had been holding up the process,” Wilson said.

“I phoned that department three times, and each time was promised it would be emailed by the end of the day. Finally, the number was issued, but the Verulam court would not accept an emailed copy and wanted the original documents.”

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In an effort to speed up the process William Colledge drove to Pretoria in February to fetch the documents, which were then taken to Verulam court.

“The social worker phoned me about three weeks later, saying the documents were ready to be sent back to Pretoria for final approval, and if I couriered them to Pretoria the process should take ‘weeks, instead of months’,” Wilson said.

That was on April 15. “Since then I have not heard another word.

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“How is it possible that Danish couples are able to fly to Durban on a Friday and leave on Sunday with their new baby and all their documents in order? I have witnessed this with my own eyes so why is it so difficult for local people to adopt?”

Colledge said: “He has crept into our hearts. He is our child and a part of our family but on paper he is still an orphan. We are trying to help, but they are making it difficult.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Social Development, Lumka Oliphant, said the department had received the adoption documents in April. However, the court had used the wrong forms.

“The social worker contacted the court manager on May 12 informing her of the fault and advised that they contact Durban Children’s Court to provide them with the correct adoption form. Letters indicating the faults were also sent to Verulam Children’s Court on June 3, 2011 and June 7 requesting that they complete the correct adoption forms. No feedback has been received from court,” said Oliphant.

She said the registration could not be finalised until the correct forms had been completed. The maximum waiting period for finalisation was usually three months although international adoptions, which were handled by a separate unit, had fewer cases and were processed faster.

The Register on Adoptable Children and Adoptive Parents shows that there are 2 626 children in need of homes. The department registers at least 2 500 adoptions annually and has a target of 2000 for this year. - Independent on Saturday

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