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Johannesburg - Child adoption in South Africa is on the decline, and it is likely to fall even further, according to social welfare organisations, if the Children’s Amendment Bill of 2018 comes into being.

The concern is that the new amended bill will make it illegal for the likes of social workers, lawyers and psychologists to receive fees for providing services related to an adoption.

And by doing this, these organisations believe it will simply result in more children languishing in adoption homes, which will in turn place an additional strain on state resources.

The Department of Social Development has proposed this particular amendment, in part, to make adoptions more accessible to poor people living in rural areas. It also believes the amendments will prevent human trafficking.

“What is going to happen if this happens, is that we are going to have fewer social workers in private practice,” said Katinka Pieterse, chairperson of the National Adoption Coalition of SA.

She went on to say that this was a fundamental human rights violation in the making.

Pieterse pointed out that the majority of organisations make use of an income-based sliding scale, and will often provide services free if an applicant cannot afford to pay the fee for a professional service.

There was also no factual evidence, Pieterse said, that the fees paid to these private services made it more difficult for the poor to adopt.

She added that under the new bill, professional services provided by such private practitioners would then be provided by those working in the state.

This will lead, she believes, to social workers carrying even higher workloads. Social workers will also need to be trained to render the specialised services needed to provide for adoptions.

The amendment comes at a time when adoptions in South Africa have been falling year by year.

Between April 2010 and May 2011 there were 2436 adoptions. Seven years later between April 1 and March 31, this had fallen to 1186.

“We don’t understand it, you almost get the impression that this part hasn’t been thought through,” said Pieterse.

The Department of Social Development had not responded to questions at the time of going to print.

Albert Fritz, MEC for Community Safety in the Western Cape, has been trying to mobilise civic organisations to oppose the amendment to the bill.

“What the government should be doing is eliminating red tape, to make it easier for adoptions,” he said.

The amendment has been introduced to Cabinet, then it will go to Parliament and then referred for consideration to the portfolio committee.

Saturday Star