Abandoned and orphaned babies sleep at Princess Alice Adoption Home in Westcliff, where they are placed before adoption. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Johannesburg -

South Africa’s nearly 4 million orphans stand a better chance of being adopted now that the government has signed an agreement with Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the inter-country adoption programme this week.

It will enable Australian families to provide permanent homes for South African children where, for whatever reason, a local family could not be found.

The Australian High Commission’s Pamela Currie said the two countries had been working towards establishing the programme since 2008.

“A key first step before this work began was South Africa acceding to the Hague Convention of May 29, 1993, on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption,” Currie said.

“In 2010, South Africa finalised amendments to the Children’s Act to fully implement the Hague Convention into domestic law.”

She said Australia had helped pay for a South African delegation to attend a national adoption conference in Sydney in September 2008.

And in 2011, South Africa and Australia entered into an inter-country adoption working agreement.

“In 2012, South Africa allocated an accredited child protection organisation, the Cape Town Child Welfare Society, to work with Australia.

“Child protection organisations are responsible for finding families for children in need of adoption.

“Last year, Cape Town Child Welfare advised Australia that it was ready to commence with the programme.”

Australian High Commissioner to South Africa Graeme Wilson welcomed this week’s announcement by Abbott.

“Like South Africans, Australians are a generous and compassionate people and South African children will be well cared for by their adoptive Australian families,” Wilson said.

“Australia looks forward to working with South Africa, and the Cape Town Child Welfare Society to facilitate the placement of South African children in need of inter-country adoption.”

Niresh Ramklass, chief executive of the Cape Town Child Welfare Society, said his organisation was looking forward to working with Australia on the “singularly important task of finding caring families to adopt South African children”.

Wilson added that the programme marked another important milestone for the bilateral relationship and would reinforce the already strong people-to-people links between Australia and South Africa.

Saturday Star