May 2024 2nd edition

Adoption an option for vulnerable children

The Department of Social Development (DSD) has encouraged South Africans to seek alternative care for their children if they are unable to care for them.

“Adoption, which is viewed as the most permanent placement option for children who are orphaned and vulnerable, remains under utilised in South Africa and this leaves children for whom there is no immediate alternative care within their extended families exceptionally vulnerable to the long-term effects of institutionalisation,” the DSD said.

The DSD’s statement was part of Child Protection Week.
The department was on a drive to raise awareness in upholding the rights of children, mobilising society to protect children against violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. 

South Africa has a child protection system that creates an environment for children to be fostered, adopted, and enables children to remain within families. According to Section 28 of the Bill of Rights, Chapter Two of the Constitution of South Africa, every child has the right to parental and family care or to appropriate alternative care when removed from family care.

As per this Constitutional provision, government has to provide alternative care for children when their parents or families cannot fulfil their duties of care.
Meanwhile,  Section 233 of the Children’s Act also stipulates that if the parent is a child, a guardian must assist that child. 

South Africa currently has orphaned children due to factors such as violent crime, gender-based violence (GBVF), HIV/AIDS, and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed many lives worldwide.

“On the other hand, some children are abandoned due to the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality which culminate into multiple social ills including unwanted pregnancy. 

“Adoption, therefore, serves as the best possible option or alternative for these children, only if there are no prospects to reunite them with their parent(s) or families.

“Although adoption is a person’s or a family’s choice, it is important to promote adoption services and recruit prospective adoptive parents within the country.” 
The department acknowledged there could be barriers, which may prevent people from adopting children, such as cultural obstacles. 

“This suggests that there is a need for increased awareness of this tool of child protection. South Africans are, therefore, encouraged to look into adoption as one of the child protection measures to increase the number of prospective adoptive parents who are willing to adopt children in need of permanent and stable families.”

Foster care
The Children’s Act also makes provision for foster care as an alternative form for children who cannot be cared for by their biological parents. 
“Foster care is a court-ordered care of a child that needs care and protection,  placing the child in a cluster foster care scheme or a suitable person other than a biological parent or a guardian,” the department explained. 

As part of foster care,  the Children’s Act introduced the concept of cluster foster care placement which is aimed to maximise the available resources, strengthening the provision of foster care services to children including those with special needs within a community-based setting.

“The purpose of foster care is to create an opportunity for children in need of care and protection to live in a protective, nurturing, stable and secure family environment. It requires the facilitation of reunification of the child with the parents or other safe and nurturing family relationships that will ensure stability in a child’s life.” 

By February 2008, the number of children in foster care was 454 000, and by the end of March 2024, it had decreased to 306 683, with the recipients receiving grants. –

Did you know?

  • Between April 2010 and March 2024, the department recorded 16 593 national adoptions. Additionally, there were 2 239 inter-country adoptions, which brought the total of registered adoptions to 18 832. 
  • The department announced it has employed 412 social workers registered with the South African Council for Social Service Professionals (SACSSP) and have since been armed to provide adoption services. 
  • If you are interested in adopting a child, visit your nearest DSD offices for more information. 
  • Children who are under foster care receive a grant from DSD.

Important information about adoption

  • If you want to adopt a child, start with a registered adoption agency or visit your local DSD office. You will be screened and if you meet the requirements for adoption, you will be put on the Register of Adoptable Children and Adoptive Parents. 
  • You need to be 18 years of age to qualify to adopt a child. 
  • A potential adoption candidate must be fit to be entrusted with parental responsibilities in respect to the child. 
  • Potential candidates should be properly assessed by an adoption social worker. 
  • A person may not be disqualified from adopting a child by virtue of his or her financial status.
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