The last couple of months have been filled with a sense of impending doom for many in the adoption community. From would be adoptive parents concerned over the uncertainties of adoption laws and 12th-hour covert changes to policies, to social workers who practically are working tirelessly at jobs that may not exist in the coming months, we are experiencing a reality in South Africa that has many questioning “what is actually happening?”
Much has been written on the topic and excellent articles such as this one by Robyn Wolfson Vorster have expanded in clear detail on the facts, the concerns and perhaps some of the reasoning behind the shift in policy. So today I am not going to reinvent the wheel by writing what has already been so clearly presented before.
Suffice to say, The changes in their current form seem to be focussed on making paid for adoptions illegal and the burden of the very complex process of screening, vetting, preparing, placing and finalizing of adoptions will be placed on government social workers who are already overworked, underappreciated, under-resourced and under skilled (in the adoption space). They may now be expected to manage the whole placement of children into their forever families in a system that many describe as broken, corrupt, inefficient and under-resourced in its present form. I mean…What could possibly go wrong? As a side note, I have friends currently being screened as foster parents and the social worker, who I have been told is amazing, cannot meet with them for interviews as the government department cannot provide transport to visit potential foster parents as they do not have an available vehicle.
If the transport of social workers cannot even be sufficiently managed, how on earth can one expect that this potential change in national child care legislation and the implementation of a government only run adoption process, will not have terminal consequences for the most vulnerable in society? Whether it be for cultural, racial, ancestral reasons or simply out of sheer ignorance to the complex nature and importance of the adoption process, it can never be acceptable, that children, will be the victims of a nationwide agenda, said to benefit all, when in actual fact, this is based on a flimsy, at best, appreciation of the process, driven by people who quite frankly, have a very limited understanding of what is required, and possibly have ulterior motives unconnected from the BEST NEEDS OF THE CHILD! Rant over!
The real reason for this article, is to ask the question, WHAT ARE WE DOING IN SPITE OF THE UNCERTAINTY?
I have the amazing privilege of being a father to 4 children. Some white, some black, some girls, some boys, some natural and some adopted. Because of my buffet approach to parenting, I am privileged to know how it feels to parent several different types of children. For the point of this article, I am able to say, I don’t love my children the same.
I do love them equally, but as they are all very different, my love is different. It is expressed differently. Somethings that cause my heart to stop for some, don’t bother me with others. Some tasks I can expect from some and others, perhaps not just yet. I can, however, say with all certainty that the lengths I would go to for my children, the fierce love that I have for all 4 is the same. So when I hear the comment that says “I could never love a child who is not my own” or “Your child s so blessed to have been adopted” at the risk of offending someone, I can honestly say, I feel a little like vomiting!
If some law was put forward that sought to affect the future of your biological child, what would you do? Would you sit back and see how this turns out? Would it stop you having more biological children? I’d like to suggest that, if your desire was to be a parent or a parent to 2 or more children, you would do all you could to place your heels firmly in the ground and shout from the mountain tops that you will move heaven and earth in the pursuit of protecting your child and children to be. You would become vicious, focussed, determined and unrelenting in your resolve to stop anything that would affect your child. What’s more, if you didn’t, you would be judged poorly.
So how have we responded to a government lead plan which intends to affect adoptions? I dare say some have hung their heads and accepted defeat, some have raised concern but very few have planted their flag, drawn a line and said: “this is as far as you will go!” Do we really value these children that little? Do we justifiably judge and convict parents/adults/people of child abuse (and we should) on social media and in conversations but remain silent when the future of orphans hangs in the balance and believe that it is any less of an atrocity?
One article showed some scary recent child protection statistics and in the face of these numbers, we cannot sit by, say nothing, do nothing and expect change. Henri Nouwen, a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian wrote:
“Compassion is not a bending toward the underprivileged from a privileged position; it is not a reaching out from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to make it in the upward pull. On the contrary, compassion means going directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there.”
We have around 500 000 adoptable children, that number is well below the number of orphans or children orphaned by fathers. The children most in need of adoption are those abandoned by their families. Statistics indicate that there are about 3500 such children that survive abandonment every year. If they have no family or kin, they desperately need adoptive families to care for them. What turns my stomach is that in 2013 there were 1669 adoptions, this figure shrinks dramatically to 1033 when we journey to 2018. This is a decrease in adoptions of nearly 40%. Looking at current concerns around adoption policy and laws, I cannot see how, given the current decline in the adoption rate year on year, the skills shortages, the workload and the lack of support for government social workers, that there will be any chance of reversing this decline in welcoming children into forever families. If the number of orphans was decreasing this might be different, but unfortunately, this is just not the case. Perhaps those making decisions should spend a little more time on the ground amongst those in the know than in the lofty confines of their offices where presumably these changes were concocted.
The bottom line is, when a society looks after their children, you are able to gauge the health of that society to some degree. We are not looking after OUR children! Whether they be the Black child, the White child, the Indian child, the Coloured child or any other, we are simply not doing enough. For the most part, we are standing idly by, expressing our frustration with the odd like, share or retweet but in all honesty, we live in a society whose children are crying out for help and receiving little more than a cursory wink. We can stand by and bemoan the government’s ignorance of the extent of the challenge and the best way forward, but we, generally speaking, cannot honestly believe we are doing enough to force the hand of decision makers into actually and practically putting the needs of these children first, we simply cannot!
I believe in order to move forward, we need to exercise some compassion and go to these children, build homes around them using the bricks used in the walls we have built around our hearts!