Cutting the red tape on adoption

2014-04-14 15:59

Replaying an episode of Carte Blanche a couple of times, there seems something utterly wrong with a Child Welfare spokesperson named Trix's statement.

“But what’s wrong having the child in foster care and not making the child immediately available for adoption? Because the care of the child - there is nothing wrong with the care of the child at this stage.” Trix says to justify why the Van Houwininges were denied the opportunity to adopt the little boy they had formed a bond with despite having met the necessary requirements.

One cannot help but get the impression that Trix's belief is that, simply feeding a child and providing a roof over their head is all it takes to raise a child. A four year old boy whose dream of being in a real family was on the verge of becoming a reality was dashed by a system that stifles the voices of the voiceless. For reasons unbeknown to many individuals and families such as the Van Houwiniges, whose desire is to experience the joy of having a child and to give hope to orphans, the adoption process in South Africa has been nightmarish. Unfortunately the unsuccessful cases are highlighted more than the successful ones, because bad news sells and money dictates. One doesn't need to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that there is a major bottleneck in the system. There are over 3.5 million orphans in South Africa and counting. Of those,  two million would benefit from adoption. Sadly because of the under resourced social worker capacity to cope with the extent of the problem, only 500 children at this point in time are on the official list and regarded as adoptable(having been processed by the courts and deemed adoptable). Due the bad reputation that the Child Welfare Services have garnered over the years, many couples who would consider adoption are wary of attempting to begin the process for various reasons ranging from costs, time-frame and the requirements. Despite much of the red tape around adoption and fostering, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Michael and Hilda De Beer have successfully adopted a little boy and are currently fostering an 9 year old girl who they are hoping to legally adopt soon. Many other families can also attest to having successfully adopted or fostered a child despite the challenges that come with the process.

"When we embarked on fostering our son Wanda, there were a few glitches, but just normal administrative ones (that have to be done) and it cost us less than R1000," Hilda explained.

"Pregnancy takes 9 months...babies don't come overnight or via express post, give yourself time to work through this commitment...have patience this can take a little longer than 9 months..... elephants can wait this long before their adorable little baby becomes a reality...we can too.... trust me."

The process also requires that one gets a police clearance certificate which costs about R59, but can take a few months to get.

While children’s homes, shelters and orphanages may be a temporary solution to the growing number of orphaned and vulnerable children in South Africa, it is not a viable solution for the long term dream of a better South Africa we envision.

“Charity begins at home,” may sound like a cliche, but on close examination, it bears truth. The “self” is shaped by the environment we come from on the greater part and less by what we eat or what we wear. Giving children a roof over their heads, something to eat and something to wear, as Trix suggests, is all well. However, it takes much more than material things to raise a child into a well rounded adult.

Simple things like learning to say “please”, being respectful, thinking critically, taking responsibility, having confidence and being considerate towards others are values we learn and grasp better in the safety and warmth of a family or small group setting than in facilities where individual attention is evasive in most cases. This is in no way discounting the efforts of those who devote their lives to raise tens or hundreds of children in orphanages for it takes a lot of commitment.

While it is very easy to throw in the towel and blame the Child Welfare Services for the bottleneck in the adoption process, we can also make some noise in order to safeguard the future of the millions of orphans at stake. Let us make as much noise as we can about orphans and take actions to change their future, which is ultimately our future. You can make a difference in the lives of orphans whether as a foster parent, a host to a child over weekends or go for the long shot by adopting permanently. To find out out adoption, fostering or hosting works, please visit http://www.newkidz.org.za/help-a-child/adoption/

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