Celebrating Families: World Adoption Day

Posted on November 09, 2020

On 9 November, World Adoption Day, we celebrate families who have been brought together through the adoption of a child; we support families who are in the process of adoption, and we raise awareness of adoption as a family option. Whether abandoned, orphaned or willingly chosen to have a child adopted, adoption gives a child a chance to grow up in another family environment filled with happiness, caring and love.


No matter what circumstances a child is born into, whether depriving or thriving - every child deserves to have the best possible start in life. World Adoption Day emphasises a universal agenda that adoption brings opportunities and hope to many children across the globe. The reasons why a specific child is available for adoption are just as diverse as the uniqueness of each child and family.     


Regulating Legal Adoptions

Adopting a child is a complex and life-changing intervention that coincides with a permanent and generally irreversible legal action that effects the child, her or his biological parent(s) and the adoptive parent(s). The process has to meet the constitutional right and principle of the best interest of the child. It requires a high level of professional expertise in legal and ethical checks and balances. The United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child (article 21), requires that State Parties take responsibility to ensure that the best interest of the child is served by providing adoption services that meet specific laws and legal procedures.


In South Africa, adoption is regulated by the Children’s Act 38 of 2005, which stipulates that a child can only be adopted through a court decision that has weighed all relevant information. The Act recognises the complexity of balancing the rights of the child, the biological parent(s) and the adopting parent(s) while ensuring the best interest of the child. It also recognises social workers as the key professionals able to provide adoption services. Social workers who work in private practice or a government department must be registered with the South African Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP) for a speciality in adoption social work, or be a social worker employed by a child protection organisation accredited to provide adoption services.


The law, principles and practice associated with the adoption of children changed significantly over the past three decades bringing it into the realm of more modern constructs of the family, diversity, a human rights focus and adoptions across borders. This resulted in adoption becoming a highly specialised process, but also made the adoption process more vulnerable to fraud and malpractice, which can be detrimental to the child who is at the centre of this intervention. It is for this reason that adoption is a specialised field in social work that requires minimum proficiencies and regulation through accreditation.

Celebrating Families

The Annual Report of the Department of Justice indicates that 733 adoptions were registered in 2018/19, which is slightly less than the 739 for the previous year. These figures are much lower than the number of registered adoptions indicated in previous years. This decline in adoptions follows international trends.


While celebrating families, who have been brought together in a unique manner through the adoption of a child, we are mindful to appreciate another family that made a difficult choice in the interest of the child.

“As a child who was adopted into my loving family, I always knew that I have two families – the family in my heart (my parents, sister and other relatives); and the family in my genes (the woman and her family who had the courage to make the most unselfish, yet painful, decision to have me adopted). My life is always in some way or another a celebration of both families” (André Viviers).  


We acknowledge the particular challenges of adoptive families such as disclosure to a child that he or she became a member of the family through adoption and at what age it is appropriate to tell, and adoptive parents fear of rejection when a child searches for her/his birth parent(s). Reaching out for professional support is essential. As Prof Vishanthie Sewpaul, an adoptive mother and also a senior social work academic writes:

“Adoption is a story of telling and healing in the hope that ‘by sharing the struggles and pain about telling, we would be able to help other parents who are undergoing similar experiences’”.

To learn more about the right way to adopt, visit the website of South Africa’s Adoption Centre at  www.adoption.org.za  


Join the world on 9 November to celebrate #WorldAdoptionDay and draw a smiley face on your hand (symbol of #WorldAdoptionDay) and share on social media platforms.




Sewpaul, V. 2010.Adoption: A Story of telling and of healing. Notes from practice/Uit die praktyk. Social Work/Maatskaplike Werk, 46(2): 249-252.

South Africa. 2005. Children’s Act 38 of 2005. Government Gazette, (28944) Pretoria: Government Printer.

South Africa. 2016. Children’s Second Amendment Act 18 of 2016. Government Gazette, (40565) Pretoria: Government Printer.

- Author Antoinette Lombard, Head: Department of Social Work & Criminology

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