Let’s be honest, adoption can be a really tough decision to make. It is a wonderful process and journey, and it is an amazing gift to offer a child, but there are also many factors to take into account before you embark on the sometimes lenghty process of adoption.
You and your partner need to be absolutely sure that it is something you want to do, and that your family is ready for. You also need to be aware of what to expect and what the adoption process entails. Fortunately there is a wealth of information that is easily accessible on the topic, but we have compiled some additional information to consider.
Am I ready?
The first question you need to ask is whether you think you and your partner are ready to care for a child that may have certain development issues. According to information released by the Child Welfare Information Gateway, an adopting family may face certain development issues and concerns regarding their adopted child. The child’s adoption is bound to play some sort of influence on his development regardless of whether he is adopted as an infant or as an older child, or whether he is healthy or has physical or psychological problems. When older babies or children are adopted there is a likelihood that their capacity to form relationships may have been disturbed. Ultimately this could complicate the child’s ability to adjust and form trusting relationships. As adoptive parents, you need to be able to anticipate these issues and be prepared to give a great deal more care and attention to the child.
Another question you need to ask is whether you are prepared to help the child cope with issues of grief and loss. In the classic “Seven Core Issues in Adoption,” published in the early 1980s, the seven lifelong issues experienced by all members of the adoption triad were outlined. These included feelings of loss, rejection, guilt and shame, grief, identity, intimacy, and mastery/control. It was further explained that adoption triggers seven lifelong or core issues. These are aspects which you, as a potential adoptive parent, need to be aware of.
If you are adopting due to infertility reasons, it is vital that you have dealt with these issues first before embarking upon the adoption process. If these issues have not been properly dealt with, adoption may trigger your feelings of sadness, anger and frustration. This is not an ideal environment in which you want to introduce a new, adopted child. In the long run it’s possible that you end up resenting the child and harbouring bitterness over the inability to conceive. Make sure that you have addressed these issues first.
There are also the physical aspects which you need to be aware of before adopting. Do you have enough bedrooms, is your house large enough in general, do you have vehicular capacity, is the rest of your family ready for the addition of an adopted child, are you close to schools, emergency medical centres, parks etc…? These are all valid questions that need answering before even thinking about adoption.
Adopting an older child or a child of different race
According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, older children who are adopted may bring with them memories of a past or even failure to acknowledge those memories. As a result, having the chance to talk about them can reinforce the attachment problems inherent in shifts in caretakers early in life.
Dr. Steven Nickman, author of the article “Losses in Adoption: The Need for Dialogue,” suggests that, as adoptive parents your responsibility will be to work to safeguard the continuity of the child’s experience by reminding him or her of his earlier living situation from time to time, still bearing in mind that too frequent reminders might arouse fears of losing his present home.
If your adopted child is of a different race or has very different physical features from your family, you must be cognizant of signs that he or she is aware of the difference. It’s more than likely that your child will have noticed the differences or that someone else may have commented on it. As adoptive parents you will have to explain to your child that the birth process is the same for everyone but acknowledge that people in different cultures have distinguishing physical features and their own rich heritage. Sometimes children who look different from the rest of their family need to be assured that their parents love them and intend to keep them.
For children with developmental disabilities, explanations about birth may be simplified or adjusted to match their ability to comprehend. When children have expressed no interest in the subject, it may be that they are not yet able to benefit from a discussion about it. In any case, it takes years of periodic returns to the subject of adoption before your children will fully grasp its meaning. Meanwhile, it is most important that you provide an environment that nourishes and encourages learning and the understanding of all important family issues, such as love and aggression, hate and jealousy, sex and marriage, illness and death. At least two studies (Kirk, Hoopes and Stein) suggest that adopted adolescents were better adjusted if they came from families where all emotional issues including adoption were discussed among family members beginning in early childhood.
Children who learn early that it is all right to ask questions and be curious usually carry this behavior over to school and develop a sense of mastery over their lives. That is why both attachment and separation behaviors should be encouraged and endured patiently by parents. Both are necessary for children to create their identity and to develop and sustain intimate relationships.
About applying for national adoption
So you have mulled it all over and have decided that adoption is definitely something you want to do. That is great. Remember adoption is a wonderful, beautiful process that touches many people’s lives. So, how do you go about applying for adoption?
According to the South African Government Services, if you are looking to adopt a child in South Africa, you must approach an adoption agency which will screen you and help you look for a child available for adoption. You can only apply for national adoption if you are a South African citizen residing in South Africa and you want to adopt a South African child.
What you should do
- Go to any adoption agency in any province of your choice to apply.
- The adoption agency will conduct a screening or home study to check if you are fit and proper to adopt a child.
- If the agency is satisfied with the results, they will put you on a Register of Adoptable Children and Adoptive Parents (RACAP) while they help you search for a child who is available for adoption.
- If the child is available, they will call you to the offices to come and see the child and ask you if you are interested in adopting the child.
- If you agree, they will send your report to the Children’s court to finalise the adoption and issue an adoption order.
- The court report will be sent to the Department of Social Development so they can check if procedure was followed, and to record your details and the child’s details.
How much does it cost?
You must pay to an accredited child protection organisation in respect of an inter-country adoption. Here is a rough breakdown of what to expect (as of 2012).
- Group orientation: R2250 per session
- Interview/counseling: R2250 per session
- Home visits: R250 per hour
- Home study report: R500 per report
- Court processes: R500.00 per day
- Birth registration: R170 per hour
- Administration costs: R170 per hour
- After care services: R500 once-off payment
- Origin enquiry/tracing: R200 per hour
For more information you can call the toll-free line on 0800 60 10 11.