Some of the children awaiting to be adopted play with toys at Alice Adoption Home in Westcliff. Western Cape minister of social development, Albert Fritz, has condemned the "steam rolling" of recent amendments to the Children's Act. Picture: Bonile Bam.

Cape Town - The Western Cape's minister of social development, Albert Fritz, has condemned the "steam rolling" of recent amendments to the Children's Act. 

In a statement released on Monday, Fritz said the amendments would make it illegal for anyone to charge fees for professional adoptive services, which would put a halt to adoptions in South Africa and abroad. 

Fritz said the amendments would ensure that only state social workers, who were already inundated with cases and untrained in adoptions, would be able to facilitate adoptions. 
"This would have the effect of putting an end to adoptions in our province altogether as accredited child protection organisations, adoptive social workers, lawyers, psychologists and other associated professionals will not be able to charge for their expertise, not even to reclaim costs," he said.

"Whilst the Weekend Argus reports that the national [Department of Social Development] will absorb the costs of adoptions, the reality is that its social workers will not have the time to facilitate adoption and that the cost of expertise will place too great a burden on the state."

Fritz said that according to Katinka Pieterse, the chairperson of the National Adoption Coalition of South Africa (NACSA), the amendments to Sections 249 and 259 were only included in the third gazetted amendment on 29 October 2018. 

The first dialogue around the changes only took place during the National Child Protection Forum from 21 to 22 November 2018, giving the adoptive community just one week to make written submissions.

As it stands, said Fritz, the amendments have been passed as a Bill. However, the Bill has not yet been enacted as there are various court cases challenging the amended sections regarding adoption. 

“I call on the national minister, Susan Shabangu, to urgently review the amendments in light of the many concerns voiced by the adoptive community. In a country with an estimated 3.7 million orphaned and vulnerable children, legislation should facilitate seamless adoptions. However, due to a systemic bias within the national DSD against adoption, adoptions are kept relatively low when compared to other forms of alternative care. This amendment will further ensure the number of adoptions halts to zero,” said Fritz.

“Section 32 of the amendment further makes the problematic insertion that the ‘the Minister may prescribe a process permitting the provincial head of social development to recognise the exercising of parental responsibilities and rights by a person other than a parent caring for a child’. This may conflict with previous court rulings on parental authority and, in turn, this could undermine the independence of the judiciary and of our democracy as a whole,” he said. 

African News Agency (ANA)