There has been much interest in the public domain about the removal of the Adoption Fee Clause as proposed in the Children’s Act Amendment. It is important to first note that the Department of Social Department began its consultation on the proposal of the amendments to the Children’s Act in 2016 and continued in 2017 and 2018 at the National Child Care and Protection Forum (NCCPF).
Provincial consultations were conducted during the months of August and September 2018. The consolidated inputs into the bill were gazetted from 29 October until 29 November 2018. The gazetted bill was further discussed and consulted on during the NCCPF which was held from 20 – 22 November 2018 where the removal of adoption fees was discussed at length.
There are 23 Civil Society Organisations that form part of the NCCPF - including the National Adoption Coalition of South Africa. The Adoption Fee Clause amendment provides that adoption is one of the designated child protection services as stipulated in Section 105 (5) of the Act. Like all other designated child protection services, fees should not be charged for adoption because it is not a business but a child protection measure.
The state is already taking financial responsibility of all designated child protection services which must include adoption services. There is no reason why adoption services should be isolated and receive special focus.
Adoption service should not be commoditised but be viewed as a means of protecting the best interests of children by placing them with permanent and suitable families. This is supported by Section 229 of the Act, which provides the purposes of adoption as being, to protect and nurture children by providing a safe, healthy environment with positive support; and to promote the goals of permanency planning by connecting children to other safe and nurturing family relationships intended to last a lifetime.
The issue of fees for adoption created challenges where the best interests of children were compromised because not enough effort was made to consider other alternative care options catered for in the Act which include to retain children within their families of origin, such as family reunification, parental and family care, foster care and adoption by family member, guardianship, parental responsibilities and rights, before adoption of a child by a person outside the child’s family can be considered.
Fees are also limiting other parents who are interested in caring and nurturing children but cannot afford adoption fees.
The removal of adoption fees does not mean that the Department is prohibiting social workers, lawyers, psychologist and other professional to render relevant services in relation to the adoption of children. They may continue to render services the same way as in all other areas in the Children’s Act where their services are required. This relates to Section 22 of the Constitution of the country which allows for the regulation of how one can exercise his or her profession.
The designated Child Protection Organisations rendering adoption services may apply for funding for designated child protection services from the Provincial Department of Social Development in terms of Section 105 (1). The allocation of funding will be based on availability of funds from the provincial offices.
The Children’s Second Amendment Act 18 of 2016, made an inclusion of Social Workers in the employ of the Department of Social Development to provide adoption services in order to make services accessible and free to all communities.
The Department has trained 889 Social workers in provinces to render adoption services. This training is on-going and it will empower and skill them to render effective and efficient services.
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