Adoption is the legal act of permanently placing a child with a parent or parents other than the child’s birth mother or father.
A legal adoption order ends the parental rights of the birth mother and father and hands over the parental rights and responsibilities to the adoptive parents.
There are 4 phases in the adoption process:
- In South Africa, the only way in which you can legally adopt a child is by working through an accredited adoption agency, or with the assistance of an adoption social worker, functioning within the statutory accredited adoption system.
- When working through an adoption agency, the process usually starts with the prospective adoptive parents submitting an application to the agency.
- Each agency has its own set of requirements – it’s a good idea to phone the particular agency to get their set of criteria before you actually apply in writing.
- Screening process
- All prospective adoptive parents are required to undergo a screening and preparation process. This normally involves:
- orientation meetings,
- interviews with a social worker,
- full medical examinations,
- marriage and psychological assessments,
- home visits, and
- police clearance and the checking of references.
- The screening process allows social workers to get to know prospective adopters as a family, their motivation to adopt and their ability to offer a child a warm, loving and stable home.
- Waiting list
- Once the screening process is complete, applicants are placed on a waiting list for a child. Applicants have their own ideas and wishes about the child they wish to adopt.
- They can decide about the age and sex of the baby or child they would like to adopt, and adoption agencies will try to meet those personal expectations.
- The official placement of the child with the adoptive parents is a legal process, carried out through the Children’s Court.
- Once the child has been with the new parents for a period of time, and the social worker has assessed the adoption to be in the best interests of the child, the adoption is finalised through the Children’s Court.
- The child then becomes the legal child of the adoptive parents as if the child was born to them and has all the same rights as a biological child.
An adopted child is regarded as the biological child of the adoptive parent/s and all parental rights and responsibilities his/her biological parent/s or previous legal guardian/s had will be terminated. The adoptive child takes the surname of the adoptive parent/s (unless the Children’s Court states otherwise). An adoption will not affect the adoptive child’s rights to property s/he obtained before the adoption.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)