Adoptions slow to a trickle
The adoption system in South Africa is in a state of crisis.
Hamstrung by bureaucracy, documents that go missing and inefficient court processes, the system is working against matching children with suitable parents, so fewer children are being adopted.
In 2004, 136 local adoptions took place through the Johannesburg Child Welfare Society but by last year the number had dropped nearly threefold, with only 50 adoptions taking place.
A report by the National Adoption Coalition S A found that, nationally, adoptions declined by about 50% from 2840 in 2004 to 1448 last year. The Consolidated Children's Act was partly to blame, social workers and prospective parents said.
Dee Blackie, a consultant to Nacsa, said the legislation had caused some problems, including:
- Illegal immigrants were unable to legally place their children in the formal child protection system in South Africa, and faced deportation should they try;
- Relinquishing one's parental rights could only be done without a legal guardian's consent from the age of 18, making adoption inaccessible to many younger mothers. However, a child of any age could request an abortion in South Africa;
- Anonymous child abandonment had been criminalised and mothers could be charged with concealment of birth and attempted murder; and
- Baby safes were considered illegal in terms of the act.
Hopeful parents who spoke to The Times highlighted form 30 and unabridged birth certificates as hindrances to the process.
Form 30 confirms that an applicant is not on the Child Protection Register, unsuitable to work with or adopt children because of previous criminal convictions.
Applicants are told the document will be processed within 21 days but many say they waited six months or more. Applications frequently go missing or applicants are told to resubmit for a second or third time with no explanation given, prospective parents say .
Even when adoptions are completed, several parents say there are very long delays in receiving unabridged birth certificates, which causes travel constraints and other problems.
Lumka Oliphant, spokesman for the Department of Social Development, said the delays were caused by "faults on the adoption documents sent for registration to and from courts", and "the challenge is the shortage of prospective adoptive parents".
She said adoption should not be commercialised and that "our babies are not up for sale".
Currently there are 351 prospective adoptive parents on the national register and 544 children waiting to be adopted.