Posts Tagged ‘ South Africa ’

Prepare to ‘WOW’ in 2012 for orphaned and abandoned children

World Orphan Week 6-12 February 2012

Children’s charity SOS Children’s Villages South Africa is encouraging all South Africans to do something ‘WOW’ to raise awareness for orphaned and abandoned children.

World Orphan Week (otherwise known as WOW) 2012 takes place during the second week in February. Raising awareness for this cause is the world’s largest children’s charity, SOS Children’s Villages.

WOW was introduced in the UK in 2005.  Since the inception of this event, SOS International has played a key role in raising awareness around the needs of orphaned and abandoned children around the world.  SOS Children’s Villages South Africa spearheaded the introduction of WOW to our nation in 2009 and has played an important part in making every vulnerable, abandoned and orphaned child’s plight known.

“Sadly, society today has far too many people, mostly children and the youth, who are unable to speak or fend for themselves,” says Leigh Swartz, fund development manager for SOS Children’s Village’s South Africa. “In South Africa, many have lost their families to diseases such as HIV/Aids and Tuberculosis; some are abandoned by family members who are no longer able to care for them due to extreme poverty; others (some 50 000, according to UNICEF stats) are victims of domestic violence and crime. A voice for the unheard is needed and SOS seeks to be that voice.”

The statistics are alarming, poignant and woeful. This is the sad reality:

  • Every 2.2 seconds a child becomes an orphan (stats from SOS International)
  • There are over 160 million orphans around the world (stats from SOS International)
  • In SA alone, the number of orphaned and abandoned children has risen 4.5 per cent since 2005 (Stats from HRSC, 2010)
  • There are approximately 3.6 million orphans in South Africa, 1.8 million of whom as a direct result of the AIDS epidemic (stats from UNICEF)

“The need for organisations and individuals alike to become involved has never been more urgent,” Swartz continues. “The task is simply too great for any single government or organisation to tackle alone. Working together, however, we can achieve this. Our aim for 2012 is to get as many people as possible involved in achieving the common goal of assisting those youth and children without families.”

With this in mind, SOS is calling on all companies, organisations, schools, communities and individuals to do something ‘WOW’ to aid vulnerable, orphaned and abandoned children in February 2012. There are no limitations to how to get involved. In fact Swartz encourages those wanting to participate to be as creative as possible.

For those not sure where to start or how big or small a role you can play to make an impact, she offers the following ideas to inspire action:

  • Buy a R5 WOW sticker from SOS.
  • Host a WOW event for friends and family in aid of orphaned and abandoned children. Go to www.justgiving.com for tips and ideas on how to hold such an event.
  • Use your Facebook page and/or Twitter account to encourage others to get involved. Posta link on your page to SOS’s Facebook page and invite people to ‘like’ it.
  • SMS the word ‘SOS’ to 36976 to donate R5.
  • Donate online at www.sos.org.za.
  • Clean out your cupboards and donate old clothing, blankets and toys to a SOS Village near you (go to www.sos.org.za to view all villages).
  • Donate your time, skills or professional services to SOS Children’s Villages facilities across South Africa

“Any money raised for SOS Children’s Villages will go directly to supporting the 7300 children in our care, as well as toward our community programme known as the ‘SOS Family Strengthening Programme’, a sustainable operation developed to support vulnerable children without removing them from their natural family environment,” Swartz explains .

“The Oxford English Dictionary describes WOW as ‘significant success’, she adds. “Our wish for WOW 2012 is that through increased awareness and participation each orphaned and abandoned child will benefit and as a result the World Orphan Week will indeed be true to its name and simply be – WOW!”

To make a WOW donation or sponsor a child in need, please deposit funds into the following bank account:

Nedbank Randburg
Account Name: Fund Development Unit SOS South Africa
Account Number: 1984 563 068
Branch code: 198 405
Reference: WOW -Your Company Name/Your name


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 www.adoption.org.za 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.

Telling your child they are adopted – when and how

Guest Post
By Michelle Aspeling
Coordinator: Pretoria Adoption Support Group, South Africa

Families are formed in many ways and adoption is a beautiful way to make a family.  From the moment I received the referral of my son to the moment I laid eyes on him and looked into those little brown eyes, I knew he was my son.

After all the excitement and the joy that came with this blessed moment in my life, I had a great fear of how do I tell him I did not give birth to him?  Although for everyone else it might be obvious, as I am vanilla and he is chocolate, my biggest fear was, how would he respond and would he still love me as mommy?

During our home study preparation we were informed and educated on all aspects that lay ahead of us, so I knew from the beginning that he had the right to know that although he did not come from my body, this was just a technicality, as he was my choice and my gift from God.

There is often hesitancy on the part of adoptive parents, especially in cases of same-race adoptions for a variety of reasons, not to tell their children they are adopted.  During our home study preparation we were told that a child should never remember the moment they found out they were adopted; they should simply grow up knowing it.  I thought this made a lot of sense, and wanted to share some of the choices we made about telling our son that he is adopted.

Tell your child at an early age
It doesn’t have to be a major undertaking, as it is often best to introduce the idea slowly and over time.  This can avoid the risk of the child finding out by accident from a family member or friend.  Some parents choose to wait until the child is in their teens before telling them child they are adopted, but adolescence is in itself a difficult time, so this may not be the best time.

In some ways, this can make the question of how to go about telling your child they are adopted somewhat easier, as small children tend to ask simpler questions than older children.  My son was four when he came home from nursery school and proudly told me: “I came from your tummy!” and pointed to my tummy.  (The teacher had explained to all the kids in the class where they came from and that they were born from their mommy’s tummies.)  At that moment, my heart skipped a beat and I said, “Skattebol, families are made in all kinds of ways, and sometimes children don’t come from their mommy’s tummy, but I’m still your mommy.”

This satisfied him for the moment. I did not deceive my child, nor did I make a big deal about it either, as telling them they are adopted is an ongoing process.  As your child is able to better understand things as they get older, you can explain more and more.  Obviously, a one or two-year-old is not going to comprehend the complicated facts of adoption, but they can start becoming partially aware of their special identity.

Be patient
It is important to explain a little at a time.  Only answer the questions asked.  This will allow your child to comprehend what you are telling them.  Answer each question as they come up, so that they are not overwhelmed and confused.  Children may only understand a small fraction of what has been explained, but, as they get older and are able to understand more detail, you will be able to build on an existing foundation.

Never place birth parents in a negative light
I used the following explanation: “You didn’t grow in mommy’s tummy.  You have a birth mother (or tummy mummy) and you grew inside her.  She loved you very much.  She couldn’t take care of you.  Now, you are my child and I am so lucky to be your mommy.”

It makes the child feel less rejected to know that they were loved deeply, but the biological parents just weren’t able to give them the kind of home they wanted the child to have.  You just have to find that middle ground between “over glamorising” birth parents and talking negatively about them.

Be honest
Adoption is not a shameful thing, it is simply the child’s “truth”.  We decided to be open about adoption, to talk about it freely, but not obsessively, and have our son always know how he came into our family.

Tell their story
We do this by telling our son bedtime stories of how we prayed for him, how we travelled to pick him up from the orphanage, how he came to live with us, and the joy, anticipation and love we felt. As he gets older, we adapt the story according to his level of understanding.  He is now starting to add his own bits and sometimes it is just wonderful how he is able to comprehend certain facts and explain to me what he understands.

Recently, he said: “I sat on the chair at the orphanage and was waiting for Mommy and Daddy to come and get me!” He asks questions which create a great dialogue between us. Other methods, such as reading a book about adoption, scrap booking and pictures, are ways parents can use to tell their children their story. Always stay positive!

Celebrate your differences
Our family is not defined by who received whose DNA, we are defined by relationship, as not one of us in our family shares the same genetics.  It doesn’t matter how you are formed; what matters is the love you share and the memories you create.  We celebrate his culture, heritage, food, art, and more.  Our son is from Cambodia, so it is not always easy living in South Africa to participate in the various festivities, but we take him to the temple, cook Cambodian cuisine and try to incorporate Cambodian traditions in our home.

Adoptive parents should not fear saying the “wrong thing”; there is no correct language or method to use when telling a child they are adopted.  You know your child best, so approach the discussion in the way you feel is most appropriate.

Visit the Pretoria Adoption Support Group on Facebook

email: pretoriaasg@yahoo.com

Letter to my ‘Prince of Wales’

Hello Rob

I am glad I am able to address you by your name. It’s about all my birth-mother knew about you; that and the fact that you were a Welsh naval cadet (when I heard you were from Wales there was a fleeting moment when I wondered whether you were the Prince of Wales). She also knew your surname, of course, but wasn’t sure of the spelling. She said she couldn’t remember the name of your ship that docked in Durban‘s harbour around September 1963. It had to have been then because that’s when the two of you conceived me.

After you found out she was pregnant you left, and she never saw you again. Which suited her as she didn’t want anything from you anyway. Not even financial support, although legally she was entitled to it. But that would’ve required her to name you on my birth certificate and she refused to do that. Unfortunately, naming the father of one’s illegitimate child wasn’t a legal requirement in those days.

I wish it had been. Because then I would have been able to conduct a state-assisted search for you, officially request a DNA test and finally fill in the missing piece of my life puzzle. I know nothing stops me from initiating my own private search , but for some reason I am hesitant to do that, although I think about it often. Almost every day, in fact.

Mostly, I wonder what you look like and whether I resemble you at all. And I wonder what personality traits, if any, I have inherited from you. When I was younger I wanted to join the Navy as a diver (yes, it’s true), until I found out that women weren’t allowed on ships but only permitted to do office administration work, so I discarded the idea immediately. Today I wonder whether there is any connection between you being a naval cadet and me wanting to join the Navy. But maybe that’s just me indulging in fantasy.

I wonder other things about you too. Like whether you ever think about the child you conceived all those years ago. Do you wonder whether you have a son or a daughter and whether my mother kept me? Would you be pleased to know that you have a daughter? And would you like to meet me? Would you like what you see?

Would I like what I see were I to meet you? I cannot help but have my doubts about someone who gets a girl pregnant and then leaves as soon as he is told about it. But, like my mother, you were young then, and not ready for the responsibilities that go with raising a child, so I guess I can forgive you for that.

The question is, are you still the same today? If you had the opportunity, would you change anything? If you had stuck around for my birth and perhaps laid eyes on me even for a few seconds, would you have changed your mind about not wanting to have anything to do with me?

I like to think of you as someone who, as a young man, had an adventurous spirit (like me) which led him to visit foreign countries. One of these was South Africa, where I happened. Of course, the thought has crossed my mind more than once that you may have had a girlfriend in every port and I may be only one of numerous illegitimate children.

But, as most young and irresponsible adventurous types do, you matured with age and went on to enjoy an illustrious career in the Royal Navy. Eventually you married, had children and now live quietly as a retired naval officer somewhere in the Welsh countryside where, on occasion, you allow yourself to reminisce on the days of your youth, when you stole young women’s hearts and indulged in all sorts of mischievous deeds for which sailors are so notorious.

Today I imagine you as a witty, lovable old rascal, who still has a keen sense of fun. Someone with a limitless number of thrilling stories to tell of his days at sea in the Royal Navy, but who also harbours a little sadness and regret behind his twinkling eyes. And I like to think that the sadness is for me – the child you never knew but dearly wished you had.

This letter is also featured on the blog 100 letters to you.

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Interview on Adoption Journey Into Motherhood

Mary Beth Wells chats to Aurette about her discovery as an adult of her closed adoption, and her journey of healing.

If my father had seen me, what would he have done?

So I’ve been following this TV soapie (we all have our weaknesses, and this is mine). In it, a woman (let’s call her Jane) has a relationship with a man (Dick) and falls pregnant. After much soul searching she decides to keep the baby, even though Dick  doesn’t want her to, and even offers to pay for an abortion. 

Enter a good friend of Jane’s (who, in true soapie style, is also secretly in love with her). He (Tom) not only offers to marry Jane, but also publicly accept responsibility for fathering her baby. He also negotiates an agreement with Dick to adopt the baby. So far, so good.

Until the baby is born. It’s a girl. Dick goes out of his way to avoid visiting mother and baby in hospital, but then something comes up and he has no choice but to go. While there he gets to see his child and even hold her for a few minutes while Jane takes a call on her mobile. Father and daughter share a bonding moment.

Later, Tom presents Dick with the adoption forms, but is taken aback when Dick asks for more time before signing them. Reluctantly, however, he agrees. While perusing the forms Dick reads the following line: “the parent shall relinquish all rights to the child”. A light goes on. He realises that he cannot sign away all rights to his daughter. While Jane was pregnant with her he was able to convince himself that she was an abstract entity. But since holding her in his arms, everything has changed. He finally decides not to sign the adoption papers.

Watching all this unfold on my television set I felt my chest slowly begin to constrict until eventually I had to rub it in an attempt to ease the tightness. It’s what usually happens when an adoption issue touches me on a personal level.

When my birth mother told my biological father she was pregnant with me, he left her. She never saw him again.

I often wonder whether he ever wonders what happened to the girl he got pregnant back in ’63. Does he wonder whether she had the baby? Whether it was a boy or a girl? Or did he forget about the whole episode, as my birth mother told me he probably did? I have asked several men if they would be able to forget about an unplanned pregnancy they had been party to and the answer is always an unequivocal no.

Back then it was not uncommon for men not to want to face responsibility for an unplanned pregnancy. South African birth mothers were not legally required to name the father of their baby, nor was the father’s legal consent required, as it is today, for the baby to be given up for adoption.

But I can’t help wondering… If my father had stuck around while my birth mother was pregnant and then visited the hospital where I was born – would the sight of me have caused him change his mind?

Would he have wanted to know me, perhaps even to keep me?

Would he have wanted his name on my birth certificate?

Or would he have decided to walk away anyway?

A fundamental human right

It’s hard to believe that in some American states adoptees are still being denied access to their birth records. This sad fact was recently again brought home to me when one of my Facebook friends (and a fellow adoptee) published a link to a young woman’s petition in which she asks for help in finding her birth mother because the state of Texas sealed adoptee birth records when she was born. 

That certain states in a first world country such as America continue to enforce such archaic legislation a decade into the 21st century is mind-blowing. What is their rationale? Who are they trying to protect? Certainly not the child. To know who fathered you and who gave birth to you is a fundamental human right and it should be up to you to decide whether you want access to that information or not. For legislators to make a blanket decision on adoptees’ behalf is a far cry from democracy and a violation of adoptees’ dignity.

The justification that to keep the records sealed is ‘in the best interests of the child’ has long ago been found to be wanting. Thankfully many countries, mine included, are trying to correct this grave mistake. In South Africa the records were unsealed in 1987, enabling countless adoptees to finally obtain at least some answers to the many never-ending questions they have about their birth. Today the Department of Social Development formerly assists adoptees in their search for the birth parents, provides psycholigical counselling where needed and facilitates the reunion process.

 To deny human beings access to information about their birth is nothing short of barbaric. It creates a wound that cannot heal, but only continues to fester, often to the extent that it invades all aspects of the adoptee’s life. Yes, the information that lies within the folders of one’s birth records can lead to painful disclosures, but I speak from personal experience when I say it is better to have a painful truth to deal with once and for all than to contend with ongoing speculation and fantasies. Sometimes the only way to heal a wound is to throw salt on it.

I wasted no time in signing Kim’s petition. If you’re reading this blog, regardless of whether or not you’re an adoptee, I hope that my words will compel you to sign it too.

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