Erin is among the few fortunate children in South Africa who have found a “forever family”. The need for a safe, permanent home runs deep, and everywhere, with between 1.5 million and 2 million children who could benefit from adoption. But only about 2 400 people adopt children every year and even that low figure is on the decline.
Now an ambitious new campaign hopes to turn this bleak outlook for South Africa’s abandoned and orphaned children around.
Next week, as part of Child Protection Week, the National Adoption Coalition is launching its Addoption project to raise awareness about the plight of the country’s “adoptable” children and encourage more people to open their hearts – and homes – to children. The coalition spans the Department of Social Development, NGOs and social workers in private practice who aim to crush the “great mistrust” around adoption and overcome the cultural barriers that exist. It has now set up a website and call centre.
The coalition says South Africans are in a state of “shock and denial” about the crisis facing its children. “The low prevalence of marriage in South Africa, and the resulting vulnerability of single mothers, the weakening of the traditional extended family, and the impact of poverty and HIV/Aids, contribute to increasing the number of abandoned babies,” it says.
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Megan Briede, of Child Welfare SA, says until now, South Africa has not had a strong culture of legal adoption.
“We had a strong sense of community before where a family member took on a relative’s child and cared for them.
“Now with more social problems, there are more and more children needing adoptive families who don’t have any family link at all.
“We’re saying we have to look out of our family, out of our own smaller community circle and into the larger South Africa, to the needs of all children – those children whose parents I don’t know.”
3 months ago