Cape Town - The number of children being adopted in South Africa is dropping. The National Adoption Coalition (NAC) warns that unless the situation changes, the country faces a national adoption crisis.
In a bid to help address the issue, the NAC has launched a new Add-Option Campaign, which is aimed at spreading awareness in the hope that more South Africans will consider adoption.
“We need to spread awareness into all communities. This is our goal,” NAC spokesperson Pam Wilson says.
The campaign includes a user-friendly and informative website, along with TV and radio adverts that started during Child Protection Week at the end of last month.
Wilson explains that the majority of adoptable children on the Register of Adoptable Children and Adopting Parents are unable to find homes.
For Capetonians Pierre Ungerer and his partner Gerhard Hefers, the decision to adopt was “the only viable choice”.
“We were watching the news and we both got tearful when we saw an insert about a Chinese baby rescued from a drain pipe. Her crime – being born as a girl. How cruel can a society be? But then when hearing stories about a ‘graveyard for unwanted newborns’ right here in Cape Town, it hits much closer to home,” Ungerer says.
“How can people have so little respect for the babies who will one day be our future?”
The “graveyard for unwanted newborns” he refers to is a field in Philippi East, where the corpse of a tiny newborn was found last month.
According to a reports, a man found the baby, naked, pale and with its umbilical chord still attached. It was the third baby found “dumped” in the same field in three years.
So, knowing that they could provide a loving home to a child, Ungerer and Hefers decided to adopt so they could give a child “everything that we will be able to”.
Another Cape Town couple, Candice Ridgway and her husband Stewart, say that adoption brought their beautiful son Hayden, now 18 months old, home to where he was always meant to be.
“Our plan was always to adopt, but after we had biological kids. We tried for two years with no luck and were told by doctors we are in good health and fully able to have kids,” Ridgway says.
They decided to consider adoption, even though Candice was desperate to experience, at least once, being pregnant and giving birth.
But she says “one consultation with a social worker changed my view”, and the couple walked away certain that they were on the right path.
She kept a blog of the entire adoption process in the hope that it might make a difference to even just one person looking for advice, and to potentially inspire others to consider adoption.
Wilson says that there are about 2 million children in South Africa who could benefit from adoption, and that this number is likely to swell to at least 3.5 million by 2015.
“At this stage, for the previous financial year, only 1 699 children were adopted,” she says.
To break it down, this includes:
l 177 children who were placed in inter-country adoptions.
l 1 522 children who were adopted locally. A large number of these are family or step-parent adoptions.
The number of children being placed in unrelated adoptions is even less, and a figure that goes nowhere near meeting the needs of the children who are currently adoptable, she says.
The register currently records 500 adoptable children added during the past financial year, the majority of whom are black.
The harsh reality is that out of about 287 applicants screened and approved as adopters on the register, only 35 were prepared to adopt a black child. The other 253 wanted white, Indian or coloured children.
Wilson says that for those 253 prospective adopters, their options are very limited. Many look outside South Africa, despite the fact that the adoption process here is easier due to the high number of children available.
“For those couples who are not open to adopting trans-racially, they might feel their chances of getting a baby of the same race as themselves is greater overseas,” she says, pointing out that South Africa does not, however, encourage the adoption of children from abroad – never mind the fact that “we have such large numbers of children within South Africa waiting to be adopted that you cannot imagine why anyone would need to go (elsewhere) to adopt”.
Ungerer says that adopting outside South Africa was not an option they considered, because there were so many children right here in need of good homes.
“The first agency we contacted said that there are a large number of black babies and very few (almost none) black families wanting to adopt,” he explains.
“For us personally, the race of the baby is not relevant.”
Ridgway says the only preference was that she and her husband wanted a boy. Race was never specified. They just wanted to give a loving home to a child. She agrees that adopting outside of South Africa was not an option for them.
Ridgway says that “everyone in our lives was accepting and very excited for us” when they adopted a black child, Hayden, who had been accepted “with open arms”.
“We have had the odd look or comment in the shops, but it’s not our problem, it’s theirs and only stems from ignorance,” she adds.
The Ridgways started the adoption process in October 2011, were screened by February 2012 and their son was home by April 2012.
Ungerer and Hefers began their adoption process on May 15 this year. The approval process can take up to three months, and then finding a match between baby and family can take a further three to six months.
The NAC advises all prospective adopters to be aware that they will be required to go though a screening process, which enables the adoption social worker to get to know them, and to prepare them for the adoption.
“Adoption agencies are often criticised for making the process too difficult, but if you think that we are having to make lifelong decisions for children who have no one else to speak for them, then the responsibility is huge to make sure we find the best possible home for each child in our care,” she says. - Weekend Argus
l For more information go to www.addoption.co.za or call 0800864658.
Ridgway’s blog can be found at http://adoptingyou.wordpress.com