Legislation dictates that Social Workers are required to inform adoptive parents about the outcome of their efforts to Adopt children only after the 60-day mark
THANDISIZWE MGUDLWA l Tuesday, August 30, 2022
CAPE TOWN, South Africa – World renowned Motivational Speaker Les Brown was born with his twin brother, Wesley, in an abandoned building in Liberty City, a low-income section of Miami, Florida.
The twins were subsequently given up for Adoption and adopted by Mamie Brown, a 38-year-old single woman who worked as a cafeteria attendant and domestic assistant. Both the Brown brothers have turned out to be constructive, well-rounded and upstanding members of society.
And Les calls himself “Mrs. Mamie Brown’s Baby Boy” and says that “All that I am and all that I ever hoped to be, I owe to my mother”. Les also goes on to share the many times his mother told them he loved them and all her other children; and also gave them true love.
And yet in-spite of this great story of Adoption, it is generally viewed as a given to declare that child orphans grow up with a substantial level of confusion and feelings of inadequacies, particularly when their surroundings abound with their counterparts, children who have biological parents, rather than Adopted ones like themselves, expert opinion suggests.
And they add that, as noble as the idea of adoption might seem, it is regarded as one of the most complicated processes of acquiring a family for the individual or individuals who intend to adopt and subsequently, the potential adoptee.
Adoption experts and vulnerable children scholars confirm that this process entails a procedure whereby an individual assumes the parental role of another, usually a minor, from that person’s biological or legal parent or parents. More often than not, all rights and responsibilities are permanently transferred, along with filiation, from the biological parent or parents to the adoptees.
Unlike guardianship or other systems designed for the care of the young, experts are of the view that, adoption is intended to effect a permanent change in status of the parties involved. This transformation requires societal recognition, either through legal or religious sanction.
“Both biological parents must consent to the child being adopted,” says Kirstine Stewart, senior social worker at Impilo Adoption Agency & Child Protection Services, a Gauteng-based non-profit organization.
Stewart further states that biological parents legally have 60 days to confirm their decision while the child is kept at a place of safety during this time. Legislation dictates that Social Workers are required to inform adoptive parents about the outcome of their efforts to adopt children only after the 60-day mark. When the results are positive, the children are consequently placed with the new parents within approximately three months.
Global research further notes that, historically, some societies have passed specific laws governing Adoption; and where others have attempted to achieve adoption through less formal means, notably via contracts that specified inheritance rights and parental responsibilities without any accompanying transfer of filiation. For example, the Code of Hammurabi, a well-preserved Babylonian code of law of ancient Mesopotamia, dating back to about 1754 BC states: “arising in the 20th century, modern systems of adoption tend to be governed by comprehensive statutes and regulations.”
These legal records show that the modern form of adoption emerged in the United States, although these forms of this practice appeared throughout history. The South African Government Gazette has mandated the Child Care Act of 1983 in which “a child may be adopted by a married couple in a joint adoption; a person who has married the parent of a child can adopt the child, with the biological parent’s consent; a single person can adopt a child.” This is called the adoption of a stepchild.
Furthermore, any child may be adopted provided that he/she is under the age of 18 years and has been abandoned or orphaned. If the child’s parents are still alive, both parents should give consent. Writing from the United States of America, another non-profit organization Gift of Life, which is based in Florida, proclaims that:
“Due consideration to cultural differences in placements – including language and religion, however, cross-cultural placements are not outlawed. The age of the adoptive parent/s will be taken into consideration. Adoption may take place via social workers – usually at private adoption agencies – or via non-profit government organizations. In non-abandonment adoptions, the birth mother has 60 days from the time of the birth in which she may change her mind about putting her child up for adoption.”
Most of the adoptions in South Africa stem from abandoned babies. In these cases it might takeup to eight months before the child can be released from a place of safety whilst Social Workers attempt to trace the biological parents.
Eloise Loots, executive social worker at Procare – a national adoption agency has the view that:”Applicants must also be realistic: if you’re adopting at a late age, will you be able to manage a teenager when you’re in your 70s?” Loots, who is in her 40’s adopted her son 17 years ago.
Focusing on criminal offences, Ruth dos Santos of The Adoption Companion, a national adoption information service has a positive inclination towards criminal offenders, “A person with a criminal record can adopt, depending on the nature of their crime. For example, a person who has a drunk-driving charge three to five years before adopting can be considered if there’s no repeat offense and the Social Worker determines the person is rehabilitated.” Dos Santos further advises that you should first find out as much as possible about Adoption. “Meet others who’ve adopted, join Facebook adoption groups and ask questions,” she says. Talking to others will also help you to find an agency or private Social Worker.
“It’s a child-centred approach – we’re not searching for babies for parents, we’re searching for suitable adoptive parents for adoptable children,” Steward reiterates. The experts further explain that after making the call, some agencies allow parents to visit the child for a few days before he or she is legally placed in their care. As revealed by Scielo South Africa, “Others who don’t have that system tell the new parents about the child and the routine before you can take him or her home.”
The Social Worker files all the documentation with the Children’s Court in your area and the adoptive parents go to court to sign the application form to have the adoption order granted. The order stipulates that the surname of the adoptive parents can be given to the child but this doesn’t officially happen until Home Affairs changes the child’s surname in the population register.
The adoption order is sent to the registrar of adoptions in Pretoria, South Africa to be registered and is posted to the parents. When the adoption order is registered, the child is officially yours – in terms of the law it’s as if the child were born to you. You now apply to Home Affairs for the official name change and new birth certificate. This could take four to 18 months.”
In an unfortunate turn of events, is the case of GT v CT  3 ALL SA 631 (GJ). “Two children had been legally adopted by their stepfather while the Child Care Act was in operation. After the implementation of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005, however, he applied for these adoption orders to be rescinded. The court was faced with a situation where the application had been brought in contravention of the maximum two-year-period as prescribed by the Children’s Act. Although it was argued that non-compliance with this statutory requirement prevented the court from adjudicating this matter, Mokgoatlheng J focused on the best interests of the child, considered the legality of the adoption orders, and ultimately concluded that the supremacy of the best interests of the child meant that he was not precluded from hearing the application. In the end he ordered the rescission of the adoption orders. The judgment cannot be supported.”
Themba Skosana and Sandra Ferreira two academics from the University of South Africa, who compiled the case study, concluded that, had there been a statutory requirement for the counseling of the parents by the adoptions social worker facilitating the adoptions before they were granted, the adoption might never have happened in the first place.
“Unfortunately at the time there was no such requirement. The impression left by this judgment is that there was some kind of collusion or scheming against the stepfather when the adoptions were granted and that the court looked for a way to “right this wrong”.
“Even if this was so and it wastrue that the adoptions had been ”forged on an unsound legal and moral foundation” and had been”engineered by the first respondent with the connivance of the second respondent and the compliance of the applicant” it has no bearing on the matter, as the mind-set of the parties, or the driving force behind the applications, is not relevant or a factor for the rescission of an adoption order. The requirements for the rescission of an adoption order are objective and not in any way influenced by the purpose or reason for the application,” Skosana and Ferreira found. Indeed, it would be fair to argue that Adoption is a true act of love.