On 10 January 2019, the Department of Social Development argued in a press release that no fees should be payable for adoption services, because the facilitation of adoptions should not be a business, as in the case of all other child protection services. Another reason for this amendment, according to the department, is that parents who are interested in adopting a child but cannot afford it, are prevented from doing so because of fees.
Annelise de Vries, a researcher at the Solidarity Research Institute (SRI), consulted experts about the proposed amendments to the Children’s Act, No 38 of 2005, which are causing major concern. In the SRI Flash Report on the proposed amendments to section 249 of the Children’s Act, the current state of adoption in South Africa is examined, as well as the effect of these amendments on the adoption process.
Experts agree that these amendments won’t result in larger numbers of adoptions but rather in a drastic drop in the number of adoptions.
Below are some of the findings contained in the report.
Since the announcement of the amendments to section 249 of the Children’s Act, many community organisations and adoption specialists have turned to the media to express their concern should these amendments be approved by parliament in accordance with a notice that appeared in the Government Gazette on 25 February 2019.
Adoption in South Africa is a highly complex and technical process and is strictly regulated by the department and other state institutions to protect the best interests of the child. Some experts are of the opinion that adoptions in South Africa are being overregulated by the department.
Despite the urgent need for adoption and the high caseloads confronting adoption specialists every day, adoptions per year have decreased drastically: from 2 840 registered adoptions in 2004 to only 1 186 in 2017 – a decrease of 58%.
In the article “Why adoption is a problem in South Africa” that appeared in The Daily Maverick in January 2019, Dee Blackie ascribes the decrease in registered adoptions to the department’s inability to effectively deal with the cases. While private accredited social workers and non-profit organisations largely facilitate the process at present, the department is involved in several stages of the adoption process, and according to Blackie, it is precisely the stages where the department is involved that frustrate social workers. The stages where the department is involved are the following:
- Accreditation of social workers doing adoptions.
- Managing the national adoption register.
- Formal letters of reference required from provincial representatives of the department.
- Finalisation of an adoption when a formal court procedure has been completed.
From this it is clear that the department can intervene at various stages should any irregularities occur in an adoption process, Blackie said.
In the article “The state of adoption in South Africa” published by Robyn Wolfson Vorster on the website www.adoptioncoalition.org in 2018, she argues that further delays occur in obtaining Form 30 from the department. In addition, the processes for declaring a child as abandoned and for withdrawing parental rights for the adoption of a child are highly cumbersome. Wolfson Vorster further says public servants take a very long time in dealing with matters such as registration of births and finalising court dates. Even when an abandoned child finally is entered into the register for adoptable children and prospective parents, the time these children have to stay on the list has been increasing exponentially: in 2010 there were only three children who had to wait for more than 60 days on this list, but in 2017 there were 240 children who had to remain on the list for more than 60 days.
These delays with regard to the department’s involvement in the process of adoption could also be ascribed to the enormous number of cases of child protection services the department has to deal with. According to Wolfson Vorster in a 2019 Daily Maverick article, departmental social workers have 100 to 300 cases to attend to at any given time (these cases do not include adoptions), while the department also is experiencing an enormous staff shortage crisis. In March 2018, Bongani Nkosi wrote on IOL News that 8 600 social workers graduated in 2018. The studies of these graduates were funded by the department, but because of budget limitations only 566 of these graduates could be employed by the department, thanks to an amount of R181 million made available by the National Treasury.
In a recent radio interview, the department’s spokesperson said the department was providing training for 889 social workers to facilitate adoptions, but the department itself has not yet formulated specific regulations regarding the qualifications social workers in the employ of the state should have to facilitate adoptions. Furthermore, social workers working for the state have been authorised to facilitate adoptions since the coming into operation of the Children’s Second Amendment Act of 2016. Public servants therefore have had two years to facilitate adoptions, but according to indications, the department has only finalised single adoptions since 2017. According to input from the Christelike Maatskaplike Raad (CMR), this is ascribed to the department’s ignorance in the specialist field of adoptions
Furthermore, the latest quarterly labour force survey indicates that in the last quarter of 2018, about 51 000 job losses were recorded in the field of social services.
According to De Vries, an enormous responsibility rests not only on the adoption community, but also on the broader South African community to strongly oppose this amendment.
Read the full report here.
“The proposed third amendment allegedly aims to make adoptions ‘more accessible’, but the real outcome will be a total shut down of all adoptions in South Africa.”
Western Cape Minister of Social Development