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 FAQ

jag adoptionIn South Africa, the only way in which you can legally adopt a child is by working through an accredited adoption agency, or with the assistance of an adoption social worker functioning within the statutory accredited adoption system. If you would like to search for an adoption agency or private social worker in your area, use the "Find Professionals" search box to the left.
When working through an adoption agency, the process usually starts with the prospective adoptive parents submitting an application to the agency. Each agency has its own set of requirements – it’s a good idea to phone the particular agency to get their set of criteria before you actually apply in writing. Getting your application right from the start can save a lot of time later.
All prospective adoptive parents are required to undergo a screening and preparation process.Adoption agencies are often criticised for ‘all the red tape’ or ‘making applicants jump through too many hoops’. But if one considers that in most cases the social worker is completely responsible for making a decision about a child’s future, the involved process becomes a necessity to ensure that the right parent(s) is/are chosen for every child – the parent(s) that will provide the specific child in question with the best possible home and family.
The screening process normally involves orientation meetings, interviews with a social worker, full medicals, marriage and psychological assessments, home visits, police clearance and references.
The screening process basically allows social workers to get to know prospective adopters as a family, their motivation to adopt and their ability to offer a child a warm, loving and stable home.
Once the screening process is complete, applicants are placed on a waiting list for a child. Applicants have their own ideas and wishes about the child they wish to adopt – they can decide about the age and sex of the baby or child they would like to adopt and adoption agencies will try to meet those personal expectations
It’s a very joyous and happy day when the new parents are informed that they have been matched to a child and arrangements will be made for them to meet the child. There is usually a period of introduction to the child, the length of time varying according to the child’s age.
The official placement of the child with the adoptive parents is a legal process, carried out through the Children’s Court. Once the child has been with the new parents for a period of time and the social worker has assessed the adoption to be in the best interests of the child, the adoption is finalised through the Children’s Court. The child then becomes the legal child of the adoptive parents as if the child was born to them and has all the same rights as a biological child.

Once a birth mother has decided to make her baby available for adoption, her first point of contact should be an adoption social worker. This social worker may work for the State, an organisation or a private establishment that facilitates adoptions or offers services to birth mothers. At this stage it is assumed that the birth mother has received option counseling to weigh up the long and short-term, as well as legal, financial, physical and emotional implications of the choices and is satisfied that adoption is the route she will take. If you would like to search for an adoption agency or private social worker in your area, use the "Find Professionals" search box to the left. Once she has the support of a social worker, the birth mother will become part of a therapeutic process designed to care for her physical and emotional health and thus the wellbeing of the child. Depending on her needs, she may receive medical and ante-natal care, HIV counseling or treatment or be accommodated in a home for expectant mothers during her last trimester. Care and accommodation is also available during the recovery period after the birth. During this time, and depending on which organisation is assisting her, the birth mother will be advised of her options in terms of selecting the adoptive parents and determining the contents of the adoption plan and agreement, for example the extent to which she would like to receive progress reports on the child's early years of development, in line with the type of adoption chosen and prevailing legislation. The social worker will work with the court to facilitate the legal process which will include identifying the birth father and obtaining his consent to give the baby up for adoption. If the birth mother is a minor, the social worker will assist in the interactions with her guardians, who then have legal responsibilities in terms of consenting to the adoption. The consent forms are signed before a magistrate in the family court and from this date, the birth mother or father has the right to change their minds within a 60-day period during which the baby may be in the care of the adoptive parents or fostered in the interim. Thereafter the adoption is considered complete and the adoptive parents are considered the child's natural parents. The birth mother will have effectively given up the rights to the child but the conditions set out in the agreement will be upheld by the parties concerned.

adobtionADOPTION

In terms of Section 228 of the New Children's Act 38 of 2005 a child is adopted if the child is placed in the permanent care of a person in terms of a court order that has the effects contemplated in Section 242 of the Act.

From the above it is clear that an adoption can only be legal if a court order has been made by a presiding officer of a Children's Court. Thus, a legal adoption is an administrative function of the lower court, and Judges of the High Court as upper guardians of children does not have the such function. Once adopted it follows that full parental powers and guardianship flows to the adoptive parents.

 

WHO MAY BE ADOPTED?

In terms of Section 230, any child may be adopted if:
(a) The adoption is in the best interests of the child;
(b) The child is adoptable;
(c) The provisions of the Act is complied with.
A social worker must also make an assessment to determine if a child may be adoptable.


WHEN ARE CHILDREN ADOPTABLE?

(a) When a child is an orphan and has no guardian or care-giver that is willing to adopt the child.
(b) When the whereabouts of the child's parent or guardian cannot be established.
(c) When a child has been abandoned.
(d) When a child's parent or guardian deliberately abused or neglected the child.
(e) Where a child is in need of a permanent alternative placement.

It is interesting to note that a child of 10 years or older must agree in writing to be adopted. Thus the feelings and personal opinion of the child needs to be taken into account.
Where a child is abandoned the norm is that a Social Worker will advertise the adoption in at least one local and national newspaper to attract any extended family members of the child. Although the aforementioned refers only to foster children this seems to be applied in all matter of abandonment.

WHO MAY ADOPT A CHILD?

Section 231 regulates who may adopt a child. A child may be adopted jointly by:
• a husband and wife;
• the partners in a permanent domestic life-partnership;
• other persons sharing a common household and forming a permanent family unit.;
• by a widow, divorcee or unmarried person or a widower;
• a married person whose spouse is the parent of the child or by a person whose permanent domestic life-partner is the parent of the child;
• by the foster parent of the child.

It is to be noted that one spouse in a marriage may not adopt a child without the other spouse, except in a case where the one spouse is the natural parent of the child. The natural parent keeps all the parental rights and responsibilities and does not lose those rights when the other parent adopts the child, thus the spouses don’t adopt the child together.

It is also clear that homosexual, heterosexual and unmarried couples are also able to adopt a child. Also partners in a customary (polygamous) and Muslim customary marriage are entitled to adopt a child.

In circumstances where a child is adopted by a married person whose spouse is the parent of the child the mother will retain guardianship throughout the process. A Social Worker will only recommend such an adoption if the marital relationship is stable and has existed for a reasonable period.

Where a mother is not the only guardian of the child the consent of the other parent will also be required. Also where exclusive guardianship was awarded to the mother the other parent’s consent will also be required.
In terms of Section 236 of the Act, a parent can approach the Court to have his parental rights re-instated.

Questions to ask yourself before you adopt


Do we have the financial resources to raise this child?
Do we thoroughly understand the process of parent-child bonding and the consequences of children experiencing insecure attachment or broken attachments?
Do we have the necessary commitment to make an investment in parenthood that raising a child requires?
Do we know what kind of child we would consider bringing into our home?
Do we have sufficient knowledge to ask the right questions about a child?
Do we know how to establish resources that we may need after the adoption?
Do we have the patience to participate in pre- and post-adoption placement counseling to be prepared for the problems that will arise?

Questions to Ask Agencies and Caseworkers


Is the agency willing to provide full disclosure of all records prior to adoption finalization?
What were the circumstances that placed this child in foster care and for adoption?
What is the history of this child?
What kind of abuse (physical, emotional, and/or sexual) has this child endured?
How long has this child been in foster care and what kinds?
How many times has this child been moved since birth?
What are the existing or potential problems for this child?
What post-adoption intervention resources are available should problems arise?


Adoption and common myths.

Adoption Process for Birthparents.

The Adoption Process

Adoption - Anthony-Gooden Inc.
Adoption - Anthony-Gooden Inc.

What are the first thoughts that enter your mind when you think about adoption? Do you think that a parent who gives up their child for adoption is throwing their child away? Are you under the impression that only rich, married couples are allowed to adopt? Or perhaps you are of the opinion that an adopted child is much harder to raise than a biological child? These are just a few of the many misconceptions that people believe about adoption. Below, we address some of the most common adoption myths in the hope that it will let you view adoption in a new, positive light…
1.    Adoption is an act of love. It is not taking someone else’s child or giving away your own child. It can be a loving option when you are facing a crisis pregnancy and you have very little or no support. Adoption is a difficult and selfless decision and should be lovingly made with the best interests of the child in mind.
2.    .Adoptions are seldom considered failures.  According to research most adoptions do not disrupt the child’s life in a negative way. For many reasons, adoptions are considered more successful than foster care.
3.    Few adopted children display behavioural problems. In fact research has shown that because adoptive families are more open to seeking external support during difficult times, they are less prone to develop serious individual or family disfunctionalities.
4.    We do not need perfect families to adopt. In fact families, who have experienced problems and have handled them successfully are usually better adoptive resources. Positive outcomes for adoptive families and children depend on good, solid and insightful preparation and education of adoptive parents. Such resources are available to adoptive families throughout their lives.
5.    Any child can be considered adoptable. Adoptability is determined by those social workers closest to the child and birth mother, and is based on a variety of factors.
6.    Effective parenting is not dependant on ones marital status, religious affiliation or financial status. The most important aspect in adoption is the prospective adoptive parent’s commitment to parenting. Ideal adoptive families have sufficient financial means to respond to their child’s basic needs.
7.    Working parents can make good adoptive parents.
8.    Children can be successfully adopted by families of different races and ethnicities.
9.    Adoptions in the past focused on finding babies for infertile couples. Today the focus is on finding families for waiting children. The focus has moved from “investigating suitability” to “education and preparation of adoptive parents”.
10.    Adoption is not a result of a forced intervention by external parties. It is a proactive action by a birth family or social worker. The terms of the adoption are negotiated with the birthmother and father as key decision makers allowing them to  be involved in the matching and selection process of the adoptive parent(s) if they so choose and  to receive information about their child’s adjustment with the adoptive family.
11.    The Adoption screening and preparation process that adoptive applicants go through is very important. This can be time consuming, but is crucial for the success of the adoption.

1Anthony Gooden Inc November AdvertCare and contact of children

The word “custody” is not used in the Children’s Act. It appears to have been replaced by the word “care”. In the case of a parental dispute parties must first attempt to mediate and only then approach Court in the absence of an agreement. Mediation is therefore a prerequisite for being allowed to approach the court. Section 1 of the Children’s Act defines “care” which includes more than just providing a place for the child to live. The new definition of care includes what used to be referred to as custody. The definition of care is a broad concept which includes financial support, promoting the well-being of the child, promoting his or her rights and directing the child. Both parents have a duty and responsibility to ensure that the child has a suitable place to live and to live in conditions that are conducive to the child’s health, well-being and development. Contact is more easily compared with the previously used term “ Access”. Section 1 of the Act says that “contact” means maintaining a relationship with the child. This would include communication with the child on a regular basis by visiting or being visited by the child, or other regular forms of communication including post / telephone or electronic.

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