COLOUR BLIND: Placing black children with white adoptive parents is now a common occurrence. Picture: AP

It’s a long, complicated process fraught with red tape, but ultimately rewarding, writes Marchelle Abrahams.

For many childless families adoption is a way of giving a child a fighting chance in life. But it’s a long, complicated process, sometimes fraught with sometimes heartache and endless amount of red tape.

According to statistics on adoptions, released by the National Department of Social Development, there are about 2 400 adoptions per year in South Africa. Considering the ever-growing number of orphaned and abandoned children, the low stats are but a drop in the ocean.

Who can adopt?

The Children's Act of 2005 states a child may be adopted by a married couple in a joint adoption, or life partners, same sex or otherwise, in a joint adoption. A person who has married the parent of a child can also adopt the child, with the biological father’s consent.

You need not be a SA citizen to adopt. You must have committed no prior sexual offences committed against children.

What about my age?

The age of the parents wanting to adopt is considered, but is not a deterrent. However, some agencies have their own rules and policies when it comes to adoption age limit.

What is the procedure?

There are numerous routes parents can take, namely through private and public channels. A good place to start are various Child Welfare organisations.

Whichever route you choose, one constant is using a reliable and experienced social worker.

The social worker acts as a go-between, especially when doing a private adoption where both the birth mother and adoptive parents have entered into an agreement.

If you decide to adopt via an agency, make sure you know how the agency adoption fee structure works – it’s a costly process, one you have to take into account when budgeting for the adoption.

Jeevie Pillay, a private social worker with JP Consultants, says prospective adopters have to attend an adoption orientation meeting where they are explained the screening process and how the procedure works.

How does the screening process work?

Child Welfare and private agencies put clients through a rigorous process involving interviews with a social worker and home visits, a full medical assessment, psychometric testing, and a marriage assessment if adopting as a couple.

Police clearance is needed too, as well as four references: two from family members and two from people who are not related to the clients.

Once the screening process has been successful, the suitable candidate’s names go into the national database, the Register of Adoptable Children and Adoptive Parents (RACAP) for matching if a child is not available immediately for placement, says Pillay. The adoption is processed partly through the Department of Social Development and the Children’s Court where the presiding officer will grant the adoption.

If a match is available prior to the names going on the database, the couple can make an application to adopt at the Children’s Court.

How long is the waiting period?

Screening takes approximately six months if conducted by a private adoption specialist, says Pillay. But she also points out the actual placement may take longer due to compliance and collaboration with the Department of Social Development.

How are children assigned to adoptive parents?

Matching is done from the RACAP database if no immediate match is available.

For family adoptions there is no matching as the child is already part of the family.

The couple and birth parents approach the social worker together.

What if I want to adopt a white baby?

“Prior to 2009 before the Termination of Pregnancy Act, white babies were available for adoption if it was too late to do an illegal abortion,” says Pillay.

Today, she says it is much more difficult for white couples to adopt white newborns.

“White babies thatare placed with these couples arein cases where the couples and birth parents find each other and approach the social worker for assistance,” Pillay says. explains in cases wherePrior arrangements have been made between the two parties.

“For Indian couples, it’s similar to the above situation.” Pillay then goes on to say that there is also the option to adopt through India, but the process can be very long and costly.

For successfully screened candidates who do not have a preference for colour, the placement time is not as long due to the fact that the national database consists mainly of black and coloured children.

How will I know my child’s not sick?

Child Welfare Johannesburg says adoptive parents can note whether they are looking to adopt a child with special needs or not. Either way, adoptive parents will always be told their child’s medical history.

What are the costs?

If adopting via Child Welfare, the service fee is calculated in proportion to the adoptive parents’ income.

The Children’s Act provides a basic cost structure for accredited organisations, while some are subsidised by the Department of Social Development and will charge a nominal fee.

Important info:

Guidelines for registering adoptable children:

Child Welfare:

National Adoption Coalition:

Abba Specialist Adoption and Social Services: