November is 'Adoption Month' and, with World Adoption Day on November 9th, there's no better time than the present to talk, and understand more, about this significant process and what it entails.
Jeevie Pillay, Adoption Specialist and a registered member of the South African Association for Social Workers in Private Practice (SAASWIPP), unpacks the adoption process and gives her take on some misconceptions surrounding adoption in South Africa.
The adoption process
"The adoption process can be a lengthy one so it's important that prospective parents are prepared,” says Pillay. A thorough adoption process should entail three phases:
1. The screening phase of prospective parents via the Children's Act 38 of 2005
2. The matching and placement of the baby/child which includes preparation of a court report to finalise the adoption
3. Post-placement services that include monitoring of the baby/child's adjustment to the placement, ensuring the post-adoptive agreement is implemented if there is a formal agreement, grief counselling to the birth parents and ensuring that the adoptive parents receive the adoption order from the court and later from the adoption registrar.
How and when to tell the child
One of the most frequently debated questions surrounding adoption is whether parents have the right to decide whether or not they tell their child that they are adopted.
In Pillay's specialist opinion, she believes it's essential that the child grows up with the knowledge that they were adopted.
"Adopted children have a right to know and it contributes significantly to a stronger self-image," says Pillay, adding that trust is formed within the first five years of a child's life and therefore the child should ideally be informed before then.
Read: Teacher of the year: Karla Swart starts pupil 'adoption' programme, sews each matric a mask
"A good way to start the journey of informing your child of their adoption is to use the word "adoption" as often as possible from initial placement – even if the child may not understand the word they will understand the sense of belonging and 'wantedness' which accompanies this conversation."
"The detail and amount you tell your child should be guided by the child as they grow and they should always feel they can approach the subject."
"Adoption" must become a familiar word in the child's vocabulary. This word, and discussion around the world, can be built upon as the child grows older.
Adopting toddlers, older children and teens
Commonly, most prospective parents prefer to adopt younger children as they feel it will be easier to establish a bond with the child, in comparison to an older child.
Pillay addresses this misconception by stating that prospective parents are given ample opportunities to create strong bonds with older children via the matching process where they get to know the children before adopting them.
Also see: 'Where's my Dad?' How to explain a father's absence to children
"Adopters receive as much background information on the child as is available, including medical history, so that the parents know what they should expect, can prepare themselves and display a willingness to deal with any issues," says Pillay.
Cross-cultural adoptions and the respect required
Although cross-cultural adoption is an emotive subject, in South Africa – where orphan rates are very high, cross-cultural adoptions are the norm as this is where the need lies.
There are important elements that potential parents must consider when cross-culturally adopting.
"When adopting a child of a different culture to your own, parents need to be accepting and respectful of that culture and prepared for the child to ask about their culture – thorough research by the parents is always recommended," Pillay says.
"Adoptive parents need to assist the child to understand their culture of identity or language and rituals. What is also helpful is that in addition to pre-placement research, they can be prepared to explore with the child. This will indicate to the child that they are accepting of the child's culture of origin."
She adds that parents should guide the child if s/he wishes to be enlightened about cultural rituals such as a Xhosa boy's initiation, for example.
"Since children's futures are at stake, adoption will always be a complex subject. There is no better feeling than a successful adoption where everyone involved (biological parents, adoptive parents and the social worker) have one common goal: to serve the best interest of the child, which is of paramount importance," she says.
You pay for the services rendered by an adoption specialist and not for the child. Adoption is a legal process.
The process is lengthy due to all of the stringent regulations and procedures involved in finalising the adoption.
Same sex adoption
The Children’s Act allows for adoption by single and same sex parents.
It all depends on what the biological parents want for their child, they ultimately get to choose who adopts their child.
Submitted to Parent24 by SAASWIPP
Share your stories and questions with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymous contributions are welcome.
Don't miss a story!
For a weekly wrap of our latest parenting news and advice sign up to our free Friday Parent24 newsletter.