Adoption in South Africa
For some individuals who cannot have their own children for whatever reason, adoption is the best option for them to build a family of their own.
Technically speaking, adoption is the placement of an orphaned, abandoned or abused child in the permanent care of a person who is not their biological parent or permanent guardian. Adoption provides a permanent and stable family home for children who would otherwise be deprived of one and would spend their lives on the streets or lead a less fortunate life.
In recent years there have been many changes in South Africa regarding adoption. These include changes to the social and economic circumstances of adoption, birthfathers’ rights regarding their children and a new specified waiting period before the finalizing of an adoption.
Family members often find themselves in circumstances where children in the family need to be adopted by either step parents or other family members. It is helpful to explore these issues with a professional person before embarking on the legal process.
Couples wishing to adopt a South African child are required by South African law to be investigated or screened to determine if they are suitable as an adoptive parent. Each application will be considered individually according to circumstances of that specific case.
The steps involved in the adoption process can sometimes be time-consuming and confusing and as such the assistance of a legal professional will be beneficial.
The prospective adoptive parent must first complete a form at the nearest Social Development office or Children’s Court. This application will then be assessed by a social worker to determine suitability as an adoptive parent. The investigation or screening begins with an individual interview and a home visit which is then followed by a full psychological and social assessment by the social worker appointed to your case. You will also be required to furnish your social worker with various documents.
Once applicants have been fully screened and accepted as potential adopters by the social worker and the Department of Social Development, you will be placed on a waiting list until a suitable child becomes available. The waiting period for a child will vary depending on the circumstances of the case.
Despite what some people may say, an adoption must be made an order of the court and is therefore heard in the Family Court like any other application before it is made final. Once the adoption order is made final the adoptive parent will be allowed to take his or her adopted child home and begin their new life together.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wesley Soutter
Wesley Soutter completed his legal studies at the University of Natal (Durban) in 2005. He thereafter completed his articles at an established Durban firm which was on the super-panel for numerous banks. He received extensive experience in family law, labor law, commercial litigation and corporate law. He was admitted as an attorney in the beginning of 2008 and practiced as an attorney until applying his corporate experience as a solid backing to his new focus of construction and engineering law at the top legal consulting firm in the country for the construction and engineering sectors.
Wesley’s experience has provide him with a notable advantage at his recent appointment as Partner and Director of SNA where he heads up the Construction, Corporate and Labor divisions.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.