On Monday 25 February, the South African Government Gazette listed the National Department of Social Development’s notice of intention to introduce the Children’s Amendment Bill of 2019 into the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces.
The amendments to sections 249 and 259 of Children’s Act will effectively put an end to adoptions in South Africa 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.
Whilst a partial truth has been reported that the state will absorb the work of doing adoptions; the reality is that its social workers will not have the time to facilitate adoption since they are unable to keep pace with the basic demand for emergency temporary safe care and foster care services.
At present, there is a high court order compelling the National Minister, Susan Shabangu, to resolve this situation by November 2019; an order which the current legislative amendments are supposed to address.
Instead, the intended amendments will make matters even worse.
SA social workers have exceedingly high caseloads, well over 100 on average, despite South African norms and standards recommending a maximum of 60.
I call on all professional bodies, religious groups, child protection organisations, NPOs and civil society to speak up against these amendments so that no child is denied an opportunity to a loving and caring home.
In a country with an estimated 3.7 million orphaned and vulnerable children, legislation should facilitate the seamless adoption of children.
However, as is all too often the case, proposed national legislation will make it more difficult for would-be parents to adopt.
Such a policy denies the most vulnerable children in our society of an opportunity to enjoy a better life.
The outcome of the registration of Department of Social Development social workers by the South African Council for Social Service Professions is eagerly awaited.
The department of Social Development will continue to fund designated child protection organisations who are also accredited to render national and international adoption services.
In so doing, it is the Department’s intention to strengthen and support the adoption services in the Province.