Are there costs involved?
Different adoption organisations and adoption social workers have different policies in this regard. However, birth parents do not have to pay any fees for any adoption services.
Can I change my mind?
The legal process of an adoption will begin when you sign consent to the adoption. You will need to sign this, on your own, in front of a presiding officer at a Children’s Court. Before this has been signed you are not obliged to go ahead with the adoption. After this has been signed you will have 60 days to withdraw this consent. You are encouraged to make an adoption plan and only sign consent if you believe that it is the best decision you can make for your child. After the 60 days has expired you can no longer withdraw your consent.
Does the birth father have to know or be involved?
If the birth mother knows who the father is she must disclose this to her social worker and to the court when signing consent. This is required in terms of the Children’s Act. The birth father must then be informed about the adoption. If the birth parents are not married, he must come on record at court to be acknowledged as the father of the child. He can also consent to the adoption, can apply to adopt the child himself or choose not to come forward in which case his parental rights will be terminated by the court. Birth parents are encouraged to work together to make a decision that is in the best interest of the child.
I am a minor. What role do my parents play in my decision to have my child adopted?
If you are under the age of 18 and you decide to sign consent to an adoption you will need to be assisted by your parent or guardian. This means that you will have to tell them about the child. You are encouraged to be open with your parents regarding the pregnancy/child and to discuss all possible options with them. Your social worker can be very helpful in supporting you in this regard.
I am still in school – can I still continue my schooling?
Yes you can. Some schools permit expectant mothers to continue to attend classes. It may be very difficult to deal with your friends and teachers but you should think about your future and your life beyond this immediate crisis and try to complete your schooling. The counseling you receive from your social worker will assist you to deal with the social and community responses to your crisis pregnancy and choice to proceed with adoption.
What are some of the issues I should consider when deciding which option works best for me, my family and my unborn baby?
Your options include caring for the child yourself or within your family structure, termination of the pregnancy, placing your child in foster care, or consenting to making the child available for adoption.
The effects of each option on you and your child must be carefully considered. Each person has a specific set of circumstances that will determine their support structure and thus the extent to which they can care for and raise a child. In addition, each person has a sense of which choices they feel they will be able to live with and which they cannot.
Who can I talk to about my options?
You are encouraged to tell someone you trust and who has your best interests at heart about your pregnancy, such as your parents, a teacher, doctor or pastor as their support will be beneficial as you consider your options. However, they are unlikely to be trained in option counseling, and as it is ultimately your decision, you should approach one of the many organisations available and speak to a social worker who can present the options, and explain the short- and long-term effects each option may have from an emotional, physical, social and financial perspective. Social workers are trained to present these objectively and have vast experience in working with women in your situation.
Will I receive medical treatment?
You will be referred to a hospital or clinic for antenatal care by the social worker assisting you with your adoption. If you are in a financial position to do so, you will be expected to pay for your own medical care; if you cannot, you will be referred to government facilities that will charge you only minimal fees.
Will the child receive information about me?
Modern adoption practices encourage the sharing of information with an adoptee. The adoptive parents are given information about the birth parents and are encouraged to share this with the child. Formal contact cannot be established until the child is 18 (except if agreed upon through a formal post-adoption agreement with the adoptive parents).
Would I be able to meet the adoptive parents?
When an adoption plan is made by you, you will be presented with various options regarding how the adoption can take place. You need to carefully consider what your needs are and what is in the best interest of your child.
One of these options that you need to consider is whether you want to meet the parents who will be adopting your child. If you choose an ‘open’ adoption you will be able to meet the parents. You may also be able to choose the family with the help of your social worker. If you meet the parents this will probably be on a ‘non-disclosed’ basis. i.e. you will not be given their surnames and address. The meeting will be facilitated by your social worker.
Alternatively, you could choose the parents from profiles, without meeting them in person. You may also choose to not be involved at all in the decision regarding the family that adopts your child.
Will I be able to have ongoing contact with the child?
This will occur if the adoption plan that you make for your child includes contact after the adoption. The Children’s Act that legalises adoptions in South Africa includes a Post-Adoption Agreement. If you decide this is what is in the best interest of your child you will be required to draw this up with the help of your social worker, before the adoption is finalised. This agreement will carefully set out the details of contact that will be allowed. Because this will form part of the adoption it is a legally binding agreement so all parties are required to comply with it.
What if the adoptive family does not treat my baby well?
Modern adoption law, screening of adoptive parents and pre-adoption counseling drastically reduces the potential for this to be a reality. However, a post adoption agreement can stipulate that the birth mother receive progress reports for the first 2 to 5 years of the child’s life to reassure her of the child’s situation. Once a child is adopted, he/she is considered part of the adoptive family and entitled to the same children’s rights as any child living with its natural parents, so the child’s rights continue to be protected according to the Children’s Act.
Will I be able to trace my child’s life and establish contact in the future?
According to the Children’s Act (Act 38 of 2005), information contained in the Adoption Register may not be disclosed to any person except:
- to an adopted person after the child has reached the age of 18;
- b. to the adoptive parent of an adopted child after the child has reached the age of 18; or
- c. to the biological parent or previous adoptive parent of an adopted child after the child has reached the age of 18 but only if the adoptive parent and the adopted child give their consent in writing.
You could, however, during the adoption process agree to a post-adoption agreement with the adoptive parents that gives you the right to establish contact with the child before his/her 18th birthday.
It cannot be guaranteed that you will be able to trace and/or establish contact with your child as people move and contact is not always agreed upon. Also note that before this step is taken you should receive counselling regarding your expectations.