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Johannesburg - The National Department of Social Development on Thursday said fees should not be charged for adoption as it is not a business but a child protection measure.

Department of Social Development spokesperson, Lumka Oliphant said: "There are 23 civil society organisations that form part of the National Child Care and Protection Forum (NCCPF) - including the National Adoption Coalition of South Africa. 

"The Adoption Fee Clause amendment provides that adoption is one of the designated child protection services as stipulated in Section 105 (5) of the Act."

Oliphant said the state was already taking financial responsibility for all designated child protection services, which must include adoption services. There is no reason why adoption services should be isolated and receive special focus, she said.

The department said although there was much public interest in the removal of the Adoption Fee Clause, as proposed in the Children’s Act Amendment, it must be noted that it began consulting on changes to the act in 2016.

"Provincial consultations were conducted during the months of August and September 2018. The consolidated inputs into the bill were gazetted from 29 October until 29 November 2018. The gazetted bill was further discussed and consulted on during the NCCPF which was held from 20 – 22 November 2018 where the removal of adoption fees was discussed at length." Oliphant said.

She stressed that the department's view was that adoption should not be commodified, but that the primary objective should be to protect the best interests of children by placing them permanently with suitable families. 

"This is supported by Section 229 of the Act, which provides the purposes of adoption as being, to protect and nurture children by providing a safe, healthy environment with positive support; and to promote the goals of permanency planning by connecting children to other safe and nurturing family relationships intended to last a lifetime."

Oliphant said allowing fees to be charged compromised the children, and families who had a genuine interest in nurturing adopted children but could not afford the fees.

Fees for adoption created challenges where the best interests of children were compromised because other options, such as family reunification and foster care, were not given due consideration. It also compromised families who had a genuine interest in nurturing adopted children but could not afford the fees.

She added that the removal of adoption fees would not mean that social workers, lawyers and psychologists would be prohibited from rendering relevant services in relation to adoption.

According to the department, designated child protection organisations rendering adoption services may apply for funding for child protection services from the provincial department of social development in terms of section 105 (1) of the act. 

"The Children’s Second Amendment Act 18 of 2016, made an inclusion of social workers in the employ of the department of social development to provide adoption services in order to make services accessible and free to all communities. The department has trained 889 social workers in provinces to render adoption services," Oliphant said.

African News Agency (ANA)