Adopting better laws in South Africa

Why is it so hard for a South African to adopt a baby?

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, June 22, 2012 - It’s legal for 16 year olds to have sex. So, basically, 16 year olds have the potential to become parents.

I am a 22-year-old employed single woman, with no chance of experiencing the joy of parenthood anytime soon. That’s thanks to South Africa’s bureaucratic laws.

I have been trying to adopt a child for the past few months and have hit brick walls at every turn. Much like actually smashing into walls, this process has been very painful for me. Child Welfare society refers me to countless social workers and counselors who advise me to speak to other social workers. This pinball process got me thinking about adoption in South Africa.

In 2010, former minister of social development Zola Skweyiya said there were 1,5million orphaned children and not enough South Africans adopting them. He failed to mention the giant red tape involved in the adoption of a child in this country. Granted, the long-winded process is necessary, because a child’s life is worth the time and effort. But are all the rigid rules and regulations necessary?

In my ongoing attempt to adopt a child, I have also noticed that it is a fairly pricey process. State organizations have referred me to private adoption agencies, which would be able to “deal with my special case better.” What is so special and different about wanting to give a child a home?

I have been asked many times why I wish to adopt a child at such a young age – and the answer is simple. It is not some noble charity gesture, but rather to save my family, by starting my own. A relative fell pregnant while still in high school, and is unable to take care of the child. She has no other living relatives she is in communication with, except me. It seems more acceptable for a 16-year-old girl to be pregnant, than for a 22-year-old woman to want to adopt a child.

It’s a mystery to me how a child is better off with an abusive parent or living in poverty, when a willing individual is offering to give the child a home. I have the resources to provide for the child: I have a home, and I have a relationship with the child I have been attempting to adopt. I’d also like to add that I’ve never been to jail…outside of visiting hours.

I may as well be a hardened criminal the way I have been bounced from one social worker to another. The government is meant to look after all the children – and especially those who have no parents to look after them. And they do, in theory at least. I have gone through the Children’s Act and it states: “No discriminatory practices are allowed against birth parents, adoptive parents and/or adoptees in respect of race, gender, language, religion, disability, financial means or any other status.”

This provision should underpin the adoption process, but as I get referred to yet another social worker (how many of them ARE there?), I can’t help wonder: whose side is the government actually on?

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Sisi Lwandle

Sisi Lwandle is a journalist, a sister, a daughter and a South African. She loves God, people, telling stories and having cereal for dinner.

She loves music and is a struggling musician. By struggling she means she can't play much more than a few feeble strums on the acoustic guitar.

She spent a few years as a medic, and even lesser years in a City jail (during visiting hours). She hates having to describe herself in less than 1000 words. 

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