Posts Tagged ‘ international adoptions ’

Crisis looms for South Africa’s orphaned and vulnerable children

Focus on adoption as a protection mechanism during Child Protection Week – 29 May to 2June

South Africans are in a state of shock and denial in respect of the crisis facing our orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children, with the numbers of children who are in desperate need of a family of their own, steadily increasing.  Current estimates of children who may benefit from adoption in South Africa are between 1.5 and 2 million in 2011.  This coupled with a steady decrease in adoption rates is placing huge strain on alternative care systems, which in principle, should only be temporary solutions.

During Child Protection Week from 29 May to 2 June, the newly formed National Adoption Coalition will launch Addoption, a programme designed to draw attention to the plight of South Africa’s adoptable children and provide accurate process information to birth and prospective adoptive parents. Addoption was born as a centralised, unified hub complete with a website and call centre to provide information and guidance for birth and prospective adoptive parents in terms of the adoption process, in fact for anyone in South Africa wanting to know more about adoption as an option. In addition it also provides an extensive database of adoption professionals across South Africa.  This is the only resource of its kind that provides both adoption information and database resources in one, consolidated format. For the first time in our country’s history, the South African adoption community, including the National Department of Social Development, has taken hands to form a National Adoption Coalition – a mandated and unified structure that promotes and builds awareness of adoption, builds partnerships and collaboration across the adoption community, shares best practices and acts as a mediator and champion. “The key focus of Addoption is to educate and create awareness among South Africans about adoption as an option when deciding how to deal with a crisis pregnancy, how to become an adoptive parent, or how to extend a family through adoption.  Our role is to assist the adoption community as a whole to create awareness and hence encourage the use of their services,” explains Sue Krawitz, a spokesperson for the National Adoption Coalition. “The ultimate aim is to create positive and permanent change in the lives of the children of South Africa, to ensure a sustainable social solution for this country.  Adoption is treated with great mistrust for a number of reasons in this country, and yet, it has been proven globally to be the best permanent solution for children outside of the family.  The low prevalence of marriage in SA and resulting vulnerability of single mothers, the weakening of the traditional extended family, and the impact of poverty and HIV/Aids, has led to an alarming increase in abandoned babies.  There is also a preference for foster care vs adoption, with nearly 40 per cent of adoptable children in foster care currently in South Africa.  This is not ideal, as it is not a permanent solution for the child, and gives them no sense of belonging or long-term stability,” explains Sue. As outcomes of the programme, Addoption is aiming to create national awareness of adoption as an option, change adoption perceptions, attitudes and beliefs across communities and empower community opinion leaders to be advocates of adoption. One of the biggest challenges facing anyone in a crisis pregnancy or for anyone interested in adopting, is finding consistent and accurate information about the process and who to go to for assistance.  Through the Addoption call centre on 0800 864 658 and the website at both birth parents and adoptive parents will have access to consistent, positive adoption communication and engagement as well as immediate access to correct adoption information. South Africa faces many unique challenges When one considers the alarming statistics, it soon becomes clear that the Addoptionprogramme and the National Adoption Coalition have vitally important roles to play, in averting a very real and imminent crisis.  There are over 18.8 million children in South Africa, almost two-fifths of the population.  The estimated number of adoptable children exceeds 1.5 million, roughly eight per cent of all children, yet currently only 0.2 per cent are adopted.  Despite the high number of children deprived of parental care, the annual number of adoptions has remained low and static over the past five years, and showed a notable decrease in the 2008-2009 year. There are a number of unique challenges that South Africa faces in finding adoptive parents as a child protection mechanism:

  • South Africa is a diverse country, with different cultural groups who have unique cultural beliefs and practices impacting adoption.  Up until now, adoption has not been “Africanised” to be more culturally appropriate and relevant.
  • There is a shortage of prospective adoptive parents, especially from the African community.
  • Adoption has not received widespread promotion at a national level.
  • Recruitment of prospective adoptive parents is currently carried out in an ad hoc, localised manner by adoption agencies and its reach is limited by lack of financial support.
  • The information on adoption is sparse and poorly distributed.
  • There is a widespread lack of knowledge and understanding regarding the unique dynamics of adoption, the typical issues confronting adopted children and their families, the risk factors that undermine adoption, and the factors that stabilise, strengthen, and preserve adoptive families.
  • The growing number of abandoned babies and children remains a serious concern, with many birth mothers unaware of their options, including adoption, or where to find reliable, non-judgemental counselling when faced with a crisis pregnancy.

Adoption or abduction?

With the ongoing furore around the US Baptist missionaries recently arrested trying to take 33 children out of earthquake-devastated Haiti, I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking about international adoptions. 

With no documents giving them custody of the children the missionaries were detained on suspicion of kidnapping, trafficking and conspiracy. I have no doubt that their intentions were of the most noble and that they wanted to do nothing more than remove the children from all the trauma they had experienced and place them in a happier, more stable environment. But did they really think about what they were doing?

Firstly, there is the question of whether the children were orphans in the true sense of the word – had they lost both parents? And if they had (which is apparently rare, except in Africa where Aids is rampant), what efforts were made to find other surviving relatives able to take care of them?

Inter-country adoption may, on the surface, seem to provide a wonderful solution for both the children and families concerned, but does it really alleviate the problems of poverty and abuse?

I agree with the writer of an article published in The National Newspaper, who states:  “International adoption is clearly the best option for children who would otherwise languish neglected in orphanages, particularly those with some disability which can be treated or accommodated in the US. But it should be a last recourse, and not used so soon after a natural disaster.

“Adoptive families tend to think that their actions reduce the number of abandoned children; alas, in poor, easily corruptible countries, the reverse is often the case. The prospect of international adoption tends to increase the number of abandoned babies.

“All adopted children want to know, sooner or later, where they came from. Any suggestion that they were taken from a parent who, with some outside help, could have looked after them will not help them adjust to their new country.”

Additionally, if the children are moved to another country the chances of them staying in touch with their biological families drops significantly.

Actress Angelina Jolie, herself an adoptive mother and a proponent of international adoptions, recently spoke out against adopting Haitian children in the aftermath of the earthquake. “New adoptions should definitely not be encouraged as an immediate response to the emergency,” she said. Haiti had many trafficking problems before the earthquake and now must keep a very close watch on the children. I would encourage as much support as possible to groups like UNICEF providing care for children in country.” (Read the full article here.)

The wound that is created after removing a child (however gently) from its birth family never truly heals. Would it not be better to sponsor a child financially from abroad, while allowing them to remain with their family, in their own country?

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