Adop­tions to be cheaper, eas­ier

CityPress - - News - ANDISIWE MAK­I­NANA and ZINHLE MAPUMULO andisiwe.mak­i­nana@city­press.co.za, zinhle.mapumulo@city­press.co.za

Gov­ern­ment wants its so­cial work­ers to pro­vide adop­tion ser­vices in a bid to curb the high cost of adop­tion and make it eas­ier for or­di­nary fam­i­lies to adopt chil­dren. The depart­ment of so­cial de­vel­op­ment has pre­sented pro­posed amend­ments to the Chil­dren’s Act to Par­lia­ment, which will see state so­cial work­ers pro­vid­ing adop­tion ser­vices for free to peo­ple who want to adopt kids.

Some chil­dren’s rights ac­tivists have ap­plauded the de­ci­sion, say­ing it would al­low those who couldn’t pre­vi­ously adopt – be­cause of the high costs in­volved – to ac­cess the ser­vice.

But pri­vate adop­tion agen­cies and MPs have raised con­cerns about the state’s abil­ity to de­liver this im­por­tant ser­vice.

Adop­tion ser­vices are cur­rently pro­vided by ac­cred­ited pri­vate so­cial work­ers, who, ac­cord­ing to the depart­ment of so­cial de­vel­op­ment, charge ex­or­bi­tant fees.

The Chil­dren’s Sec­ond Amend­ment Bill, which was pre­sented to Par­lia­ment’s port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on so­cial de­vel­op­ment, makes pro­vi­sion for the ex­ten­sion of the def­i­ni­tion of an “adop­tion so­cial worker” to cover so­cial work­ers in the em­ploy of the state.

The depart­ment’s Siyabonga Shozi said: “The in­ten­tion is to be able to man­age adop­tions, be­cause cur­rently the def­i­ni­tion is nar­row and does not al­low for so­cial work­ers in the em­ploy of the state to con­duct adop­tions.

“As a depart­ment, we hope this in­ter­ven­tion will as­sist be­cause there are two is­sues we are try­ing to ad­dress: cost and ac­cess.”

Adop­tion agen­cies charge no less than R100 000 to man­age the adop­tion process of a sin­gle child.

Ca­rina du Toit, an at­tor­ney work­ing with the Child Law Cen­tre in Pre­to­ria, who spoke to City Press af­ter the pro­posed amend­ments were tabled, said it was a step in the right di­rec­tion.

“It means that peo­ple liv­ing in ru­ral ar­eas, who would have wanted to adopt but could not af­ford to, will now have the chance to do it,” she said.

Though Du Toit was happy with the pro­pos­als, she raised con­cerns about the amend­ments not be­ing clear on whether public sec­tor so­cial work­ers would have to be ac­cred­ited to pro­vide such a spe­cialised ser­vice.

She said: “Adop­tion is a spe­cialised ser­vice, which means that peo­ple who pro­vide these ser­vices must be ac­cred­ited to en­sure that the best in­ter­ests of the child are pro­tected.”

Elsabe En­gel­brecht of Procare, an or­gan­i­sa­tion that of­fers adop­tion ser­vices, was not that op­ti­mistic.

“Adop­tion is a very spe­cialised ser­vice and re­quires ex­pe­ri­ence, knowl­edge and skill.”

She said that if the amend­ments were passed in their cur­rent for­mat, they would have a neg­a­tive im­pact on adop­tions be­cause par­ties served by state so­cial work­ers might re­ceive a less spe­cialised ser­vice.

Nadene Crow­der-Grab­ham, gen­eral man­ager of Door of Hope, which helps aban­doned ba­bies, shared this con­cern.

“It is true that there are not many spe­cialised adop­tion so­cial work­ers in the field. I have come across par­ents who men­tioned that they had worked through a so­cial worker who was not spe­cialised and it turned out that half the re­quire­ments for adop­tions were not met. So if gov­ern­ment so­cial work­ers are trained in this field, it will def­i­nitely solve the prob­lem of a short­age of spe­cialised adop­tion so­cial work­ers,” she said.

Through the amend­ments, the depart­ment is hop­ing to re­duce the cur­rent pe­riod of be­tween six to 12 months that it takes for adop­tions to be fi­nalised.

But MPs raised con­cerns about the train­ing of state so­cial work­ers to deal with the added re­spon­si­bil­ity, with some ques­tion­ing whether the state had enough hu­man re­source ca­pac­ity to han­dle the ex­pected flood of adop­tion ap­pli­ca­tions.

The DA’s Lindy Wil­son pro­posed that only li­censed and ac­cred­ited so­cial work­ers be al­lowed to work with adop­tions.

The IFP’s Liezl van der Merwe pointed out that the cur­rent Chil­dren’s Act had in the past been blamed for a de­crease in the num­ber of adop­tions. She said So­cial De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Batha­bile Dlamini had ad­mit­ted that there had been a 30% drop in adop­tions in a coun­try with about 5.4 mil­lion or­phans since its im­ple­men­ta­tion in 2005.

PHOTO: LUCKY NXUMALO

TOOT­SIES Public sec­tor so­cial work­ers may soon han­dle adop­tions. How­ever, So­cial De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Batha­bile Dlamini (inset) has re­port­edly ad­mit­ted there has been a 30% drop in adop­tions in SA, which has about 5.4 mil­lion or­phans, since the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Chil­dren’s Act in 2005

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