Parliament, Wednesday, 8 December 2021 – Representatives from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) offering adoption services raised concerns regarding administrative delays on the part of the departments of Social Development, Home Affairs and Justice and children’s courts that unnecessarily prolong adoption processes, sometimes for many years. They were speaking during public hearings on the Children’s Amendment Bill, which took place in Clanwilliam, in the Western Cape, yesterday.

The Department of Social Development was criticised for taking too long to issue the letters of recommendation for adoption, which must be submitted to the children’s court to issue an adoption order. It was recommended that the Bill should set specific timeframes for the department to issue these letters. The Department of Home Affairs was also criticised for taking too long to register adoption to change the adopted child’s surname to that of the adoptive parents.

The participants mentioned the far-reaching implications of these delays on the lives of children. Some adoptions take so long that it impacts on the development of the child, until they reach an age when they are no longer adoptable. They emphasised that the first 1 000 days of a child’s life are critical for establishing family bonds.
Notwithstanding these concerns, participants in the public hearings said they supported the Bill and called for their inputs and recommendations to be taken into consideration.

Also, in support of the Bill, the participants appealed to the senior officials in the Department of Social Development, who were present during the hearings, to ensure that there would be effective implementation of the Bill once it is passed into law. They pointed out that it is one thing to have a progressive policy and another to implement it. They called for qualitative empowerment of the implementers of the Act, who will make sure that the rights of children are always at the centre.

The Bill seeks to, among other things, strengthen protective measures for children and close gaps in the child protection system. Furthermore, it is intended to improve foster care services, and resolve parental responsibilities of unmarried fathers and services to children born to foreign parents and unaccompanied migrant children.

The Chairperson of the committee, Ms Nonkosi Mvana, assured the participants that all their inputs will be considered. She also assured them that the questions they asked of Department of Social Development officials will be answered. “We are deployees for a mandate that includes passing of legislation at Parliament and the officials are employed for implementation,” said Ms Mvana.


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