Why is adoption so difficult?

The Minster of Social Development, Zola Skweyiya, recently called for more South Africans to adopt. He said there are 1,5 million orphaned children and not enough South Africans are adopting (adoption figures have declined from 2323 in 2005/6 to 1913 in 2007/8), so “We encourage South African families to adopt children and provide them with permanent families and love.” So why haven’t South African families heeded the Minister’s call and done their civic duty of adopting?

It’s because adoption is not an act of charity. Adoption is not like sponsoring a brick or even an entire new home. Adoption is a lifetime commitment to love and care for a child. It is not something to be done out of a sense of social responsibility. I didn’t adopt because I’m a good citizen. I adopted because I want a family.

Most families who want to adopt, want to adopt babies rather than older children. The adoption services deal mainly with babies and there are not enough human resources to allow co-operation with children’s homes to try to place the older children living there with permanent families.

People think the adoption screening process is difficult because it is intense and rigorous. It should be. There is no greater responsibility than to parent a child. You must be very sure about taking this huge, irreversible step and the social workers must be very sure you are a fit and suitable parent who can be “entrusted with full parental responsibilities and rights”.

If that means taking medicals, undergoing training, being interviewed, having your home inspected, getting referees to vouch for you and turning a searchlight on your deepest darkest doubts – that’s fine. In fact another step has been added: police clearance to check you don’t have a criminal record. In future, your fingerprints will also be checked against the new National Child Protection Register which lists all people unsuitable to be with children.

How the adoption system needs help
The main difficulty in adoption is the inefficient system. The Minister should channel his resources into providing the infrastructure to make the adoption system run smoothly. He can:
1. Train enough adoption social workers to provide adoption services in a standard way across the country and pay them properly.
2. Assign each social worker an investigator. So much valuable time is spent trying to trace the parents of abandoned babies, the fathers of children whose mothers want to make them available for adoption, (the consent of both biological parents is required) and the grandparents of the child if the parents are minors.
3. Fast track the establishment of the Register on Adoptable Children and Prospective Adoptive Parents (RACAP). At present each agency works in its own geographic region and there is little communication or co-operation between them.
4. Provide the technology so each social worker has her own computer, e-mail and internet connection and create an adoption website.
5. Inform and educate the South African public about adoption services.
As a parent who created my family through adoption, I don’t mind whatever hoops I have to leap through to be allowed to adopt. All I ask is that the social workers holding those hoops can have the resources to efficiently handle them uniformly throughout our country. Otherwise prospective parents end up entangled in red tape or flailing in mid-air in their attempts to adopt.

Do you believe the adoption system is efficient? Whose responsibility are the many parentless children?

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