Debate rages on about law change that will make it illegal to charge for adoption services

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A debate is raging over a proposed amendment to the Child Care Act that would outlaw charging fees for adoption services. The amendment is expected to be passed by the end of the year, as part of a number of changes to the Act, GroundUp reports. 

Adoption is currently overseen by the Department of Social Development. Social workers in the department process adoptions. The department also accredits adoption organisations and private social workers.

Lumka Oliphant, spokesperson for the department, said that it has accredited 102 organisations and 59 social workers.

She told GroundUp that the department supports the amendment because adoption “is not a business but a child protection measure”.

But adoption organisations and social workers say the removal of fees will worsen adoption, or even stop it altogether.

Katinka Pieterse, chairperson of the National Adoption Coalition of South Africa, an umbrella organisation with over 100 members, says “We are asking [the department] to simply talk about [the implications of the amendment and provide a] clear rationale for the decision.”

While the national department does subsidise some adoption organisations, Pieterse says most funding ”is not comprehensive” and a no-fee situation will force some of the organisations close and cut social workers.

Julie Todd, director of the Child and Family Welfare Society of Pietermaritzburg, says that adoption charges are often on a sliding scale and are not a “revenue generator” but rather there to cover the costs of a “complex process”.

But Oliphant told GroundUp that adoption numbers will not fall because besides accredited adoption organisations the department itself has social workers providing adoption services.

Western Cape Minister of Social Development Albert Fritz has written two articles criticising the amendment, posted on 22 January and 25 January. Fritz wrote that the removal of fees will result in a “total shutdown of all adoptions in South Africa”.

But Oliphant says the amendment does not make adoption services the sole responsibility of the department. Organisations “may render services the same way like all other areas in the Children’s Act where their services are required for free”.

How the clause was introduced is controversial. Both Pieterse and Todd said that the amendment was only introduced in the gazetted version of the Child Care Act, giving them very little time to respond.

But Oliphant says the clause was discussed at length at the National Child Care and Protection Forum (NCCPF) which was held on in November.

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