Children in waiting

With the decline in parents coming forward to adopt and a high volume of abused and abandoned children that come into the system on a weekly basis, adoption agencies have a problem on their hands.

“We are going to have a bottleneck dilemma” says Marihet Infantino who manages the Child Family Unit (CFU) at Jo’burg Child Welfare. “There are currently more children than we can cater for” she adds.

Since 2007, Johannesburg Child Welfare has seen a 40% drop in the number of families who approach them to adopt. Pam Wilson, who runs the adoption team, echoes Infantino’s comment “We don’t have enough families for the children waiting.”

The Department of Social Development has also reported a decline in adoptions; 2 560 children were adopted at the end of 2007 with only 1 851 this year, a total decline in approximately 700 adoptions.

The current economic climate could be related to the decline, Wilson says. Families don’t want to take on extra responsibilities at the moment as finances are tight.

This trend is concerning as more children will be institutionalized and while they receive good care at the homes and places of safety they are at risk of being unable to form good bonds with others and may tend to have attachment issues later in their lives, says Infantino.

Nationally the shortage of social workers and high staff turnover is problematic. Social workers tend to move from welfare into the private sector to improve their situations which results in a continuous stream of new faces. This is unsettling for the children as they need to be able to form a relationship with their social worker which is not possible when they see a new face every few weeks.

Wilson says that the lack of social workers puts pressure on the entire adoption process for any agency.

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