By MARVIN CHARLES
The latest amendments made to Sections 249 and 259 of the Children’s Act of 2005, which will mean the government will facilitate all adoptions, have been met with concern by adoption NGOs, children and youth- care organisations.
Operations director at Door of Hope, Nadene Grabham, said: “We are disappointed to hear of these amendments and are concerned about how they will affect future adoptions. Not only adoptions, but all those in the child-care space who are trying to tackle the massive problem we have in South Africa of vulnerable and orphan children. At the end of the day, it is the children who will suffer the most.”
Grabham said these changes could lead to the closing of many NGOs and related services that help to facilitate adoptions.
“There will be no way for them to sustain themselves in running their organisations and paying liveable wages to adoption social workers as well as other staff who are required to run these private, specialised service providers. Child and youth care centres will lose key partnerships with these NGOs. Without adoptions being facilitated, child and youth care centres will reach their capacities shortly thereafter. Space will run out and new children, desperate for care, will have no place to go.”
Grabham said there would be more challenges for thousands of children in the future.
“Children will lose the wonderful opportunity of being welcomed into adoptive families. These children will place an even greater burden on an already incapacitated system. Many more children will get stuck in the system indefinitely. Numerous surviving NGOs and child and youth care centres will probably find a new set of challenges they will have to face. For some it will include dealing with older children in their care.”
Last week, the Department of Social Development drafted last-minute changes to the proposed draft amendments that are aimed at excluding all private professionals from the adoption process in South Africa. The proposals include making it illegal for anyone working in the adoption sector to charge a fee for their services.
These specific amendments dealing with professional fees and adoptions were made by the department and hastily pushed through after the initial consultation processes with the NGO sector had already been completed in July and August last year. These changes were not part of the drafts that were consulted with the adoption sector.
The chairperson of the National Adoption Coalition of South Africa (Nacsa), Katinka Pieterse, said: “We were not properly consulted about these proposed amendments. There were no discussions about these specific amendments. This is a radical shift and we are concerned because NGOs that render adoption services will not be able to claim or be reimbursed for medical services, lawyers or occupational therapy.”
MEC for social development, Albert Fritz, has condemned the bill.
“I call on the national minister (of social development) , Susan Shabangu, to urgently review the amendments in light of the many concerns voiced by the adoptive community.
“In a country with an estimated 3.7 million orphaned and vulnerable children, legislation should facilitate seamless adoptions. However, due to a systemic bias within the national department against adoption, adoptions are kept relatively low when compared with other forms of alternative care. This amendment will further ensure the number of adoptions halts to zero.”