Adoption : Our nation's children

Adoption in South Africa

Approximately 3.7 million South African children are partially orphaned (having lost either a mother or a father) or doubly orphaned. Of the 1.8 million children in need of adoption, only a small fraction is placed with adoptive families.

Put this in perspective: in 2013, only 1 669 children were adopted and in 2014, the number dropped to 1 448.  Figures have roughly halved since 2004 (when 2 840 adoptions took place).


Why is there such a decline in the adoption rates?

In a 2015 study, the predominant cited reason for the decline is cultural barriers. “Cultural barriers” refer to the importance of keeping a child within his/her community as stated in the Children’s Act 38 of 2005 (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”). The cultural background of the child, biological parents and adoptive parents must always be taken into account when adoption application is considered.

The international norm is for adoptive parents to be matched with children from the same community. GroundUp elaborates extensively on how upholding this provision is particularly complicated in South Africa’s adoption processes. The Human Sciences Research Council alleges that most South Africans approve of trans-racial adoptions, so that this obstruction to placing orphans in homes should potentially be reviewed in future.


How does the adoption process work?

In South Africa, you can legally adopt a child,

    • by working through an accredited adoption agency; or
    • with the assistance of an adoption social worker functioning within the statutory accredited adoption system.


Step 1: Discuss the adoption

Talk to your partner and family and discuss the various important aspects regarding adoption and how another family member will affect the household.


Step 2: Choose a social worker/agency

Adoptions in South Africa are processed by private and government agencies. Private agencies work faster, but are more expensive, but in every case the process is essentially the same.


Step 3: Complete the screening process

All prospective adoptive parents are required to undergo a screening and preparation process, which normally involves orientation meetings, interviews with a social worker, full medicals, marriage and psychological assessments, home visits, police clearance and references.


Step 4: Wait for your child

Once the screening process is complete, applicants are placed on a waiting list for a child.

When the parents are informed they have been matched to a child, arrangements are made for them to meet the child. There is usually a period of introduction to the child and the length of time varies according to the child’s age.

The official placement of the child with the adoptive parents is a legal process which is carried out through the Children’s Court. Once the child has been with the new parents for a period of time and the adoption is found to be in the best interests of the child, after assessment by the social worker, the adoption is finalised through the Children’s Court.


What does the Children’s Act say about adoption?

What improvements have been made from the previous act, the Child Care Act?

The Act governs the adoption process in South Africa and introduces new provisions to adoption practices. Provincial departments of Social Development now have a vital role to play in facilitating adoptions and monitoring the services rendered by child protection organisations and adoption social workers in private practice.

The Children’s Act also contains features that were not part of the Child Care Act, like post-adoption agreements and freeing orders.


Who may adopt a child?

This process applies to South African citizens or permanent residents. Foreigners wanting to adopt a South African child must consult the South African Government Services website for the correct process.

Section 231(1) of the Act describes persons who may adopt a child, while section 230 describes the child who may be adopted.

The National Department regulates and monitors the execution of adoption services through the Register on Adoptable Children and Prospective Adoptive Parents (RACAP), which ensures that more children are placed within the country before inter-country adoption is considered.



With millions of orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children, the need to adopt and to obtain more information regarding adoption is great. We will therefore release a follow-up blog later this year to expand on this important issue.  Your love can change a life…



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