At Arise, we believe that every child deserves to be raised in a thriving family; and we work tirelessly in two ways to achieve this. Firstly, we work with existing families in resource poor communities to build resilience and deepen connections through our strength-based approach and group interventions. Secondly, we advocate strongly for those children who do not have families to be placed in families through adoption.
Over the past few months we have been observing and consulting with people and organisations involved in the proposed changes in the Children’s Act Amendment Bill of 2019. We are greatly concerned about some of the proposed changes in the Bill; just one of them being the impact of making adoption fees illegal. We would like to go on record as opposing the amendments to the Children’s Act, as they currently stand. We oppose this bill because while we recognize that our system needs change, we would advocate to develop, improve and strengthen existing partnerships between the Department of Social Development (DSD) and private agencies who are serving children already in the system. We would also advocate for a greater investment in family strengthening & preservation through upskilling and training social workers, rather than disadvantaging children in a system which is already failing them.
The reality is that child protection in this country is not working, We know first-hand about the crushing case load our statutory services and DSD social workers are experiencing. We walk the journey with our clients when they are let down by a system that is too under-resourced and overburdened to give them the basic services they are due. We have seen the band-aids that the system puts on the problem and get frustrated when we see little being done to break the cycle of broken relationships and do the work that needs to be down to ensure our children (all children) have a strong sense of belonging within their families. Too little is being done to strengthen, preserve and protect our families. Too little is done to reunify our families, when our children are placed in foster care. Too few of our foster children have any plan for permanency. Too many of our children are left in children’s homes, left on the street, or left in unsafe places because our children protection system is overwhelmed.
If this Bill is passed in its current format, we are concerned that our already overburdened social workers will not have the adequate time, resources, or experience to sensitively handle our adoptions in South Africa. We are left asking will they be able to take into account the complex tasks of attachment and loss; the importance of identity; the needs of the entire adoption triad and the multitude of complex issues which needs to be addressed when placing a child in permanent care? Permanency for every child living in institutional care in South Africa must be a realistic and urgent goal.
Yet, we believe too that DSD has some valid points in wanting amendments to the Children’s Act. It is true that they have not adequately, or timeously allowed for consultation with ALL relevant stakeholders in the adoption space, but there are still some points here worth reflection. We agree with the view that adoption should be seen as a means of protecting the best interests of children by placing them with permanent and suitable families. This goal is enshrined in section 229 of the Children’s Act. In essence, DSD believes that adoption should not be seen as a business, but as a child protection issue. Concern has been expressed that too little is done by private adoption social workers and social work agencies to preserve and reunify families, because of the lucrative fees involved with placing a child for adoption. DSD have also stated that they believe the current fees make adoption unaffordable for some families, who may have been a better match for the child. This argument becomes charged because of the race, class and wealth dynamics at play in our country.
We believe we need to be looking at ways to partner together to make adoption more accessible and create permanency for all our children. The government child protection system is under resourced but DSD could be partnering more effectively with NGOs and other stake holders in the adoption space. The adoption space has challenges which need to be clearly identified and explored, but we need to look at ways to partner together more effectively, rather than being adversarial.
Arise believes that in order to ensure that we are truly doing the best for children in need of permanency, we need to actively participate with important stakeholders, with adult adoptees, and with children who grew up in institutions. We need to do our research, learn from our mistakes and openly discuss and work together to guarantee that we do our utmost to keep families together and ensure children are placed in thriving families.
You can add your voice to the petition that calls for the Children’s Act Amendment bill to be withdrawn and reworked here.
Written by Danielle Moosajie (Director) and the Arise Team