We’ve said it time and time again – you don’t need someone’s blood, pumping through your veins, to call them family.
Family is about caring for one another and loving each other against all odds. So we often write about the many other household and family forms in South Africa that transcend the nuclear norm. These forms include living with grandparents and non-biological parents, who form a loving and supportive family through the process of adoption.
Many couples yearn to start a family but for several reasons are unable to conceive and have a baby of their own. Some simply do not want to have biological children. Adoption provides an alternative to these couples, while providing a safe environment and loving home for a child who may never have had a loving family otherwise. In fact, the Children’s Act 38 of 2005 and relevant national policies prioritise adoption as a preferred form of alternative permanent family care for children.
Sadly however, Katinka Pieterse from the National Adoption Coalition of South Africa (NACSA) says adoption numbers in recent years have shown a steady decline.
“Between April 2010 and 31 March 2011 there were 2,436 adoptions registered in South Africa, whereas there were only 1,186 adoptions registered between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018 – less than half of the previous period.”
The perceived obstacles
The decline in adoptions may have something to do with the myths around the process of adoption and the subsequent obstacles preventing them. Some of these obstacles include:
- Limited knowledge: Many people have limited knowledge of how the adoption process works and as a result it is often not an option that they naturally consider. Thankfully, with the aid of adoption bodies such as NACSA, there are many avenues available to find out about and embrace adoption as the best permanent alternative solution.
- Affordability: Many families are experiencing the impact of challenging financial times which could influence their decision to adopt. However, the adoption process itself is not a costly undertaking, with many service providers rendering their services free of charge.
- Systemic barriers: Adoption is a long and cumbersome process that has its fair share of systemic challenges and delays. But a lack of experienced operators on the ground that have the capacity and expertise to mediate the adoption process is a focal point that the adoption community continues to work on.
- Social and cultural norms: There are countless myths around cross-cultural adoptions, even more so in same-culture adoptions where social norms heavily influence the practice of adoption. Overcoming these myths and highlighting the magic that the right fit brings to a family is at the heart of NACSA’s World Adoption Day campaign.
“One of the resounding myths that we hear almost every day is that you have to be the perfect family in order to adopt a child," says Katinka. "While there are a number of factors that the process will confirm to ensure the wellbeing of the child, we all know that there is no such thing as a perfect family.”
Hoping to remind others of what adoption really is about, she concludes, “What adoption is more likely to bring about is a very special child that needs your love and care and fits your family perfectly and completes it.”
The adoption process and parenting adopted children
We spoke to local mom and blogger of The Blessed Barrenness, Sharon van Wyk, about adoption and how it’s changed her life.
“Going through the adoption process and now parenting adopted children, I am learning so much,” she said, but added, “It is not the fairytale so many would have us believe.
“Watching my children grow, I have also learned to recognise their primal wound and I'm learning the best ways to parent them through that,” she says. “Adoption is so very much more complex than any of us can ever realise until we're actually in it.”
But when everything’s been said and done, Sharon says her life’s been changed forever. “Adoption has given me two beautiful daughter who are my everything.”
- Read more about Sharon's story here: Pregnancy doesn't make you a mother
A few adoption laws that changed in 2018
After signing the Labour Laws Amendment Bill on Friday 23 November, president Cyril Ramaphosa announced that all employees who were not entitled to maternity leave would now be entitled to 10 days of paid parental leave.
This covers fathers, granting them paternity leave from the moment their child is born, as well as adoptive parents who are able to take up to two months and two weeks of consecutive leave if their child is under 2 years old. If the child has two adoptive parents, one is entitled to the full two months and two weeks while the other will be granted 10 days.
Key articles to help you through the process
As an endorsed form of alternative family care recognised by the government, along with laws that have now given adoptive parents the rights they should have had all along, adoption is an alternative well worth considering and embracing as the new norm.
If you’re already thinking about adopting, and you just don’t know where to start, we’ve got an entire adoption hub dedicated to guiding and helping you through the process. But here are a few key articles to get you started:
- Adoption in South Africa: the basics
- The process of adoption in South Africa
- Opt to adopt
- The right way to adopt in 7 steps
- The adoption process
- Why you can't arrange a private adoption
- Want to adopt a child?
- Adoption: Fact vs fiction
- Want to be a parent? You should adopt!
Are you adoptive parents? How has your life changed since completing your family? Tell us your story by emailing email@example.com and we may publish it.
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