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5 Things to Know about Adoption from South Africa

Toddler Adoption Adoption Education and Training Culture and Pride South Africa

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  Written by Spence-Chapin Services to Families and Children on 19 Jun 2017

1. Openness to Adoptive Parents of all Backgrounds

South Africa is open to all types of adoptive parents– single men & women, married and unmarried couples, and LGBTQ parents. The South Africa government is committed to a practice of non-discrimination and we’ve seen this be true in our adoption program as married couples, LGBTQ parents, as well as single parents have adopted! It truly is about finding the right parent(s) for a child!

2. Common Medical Needs

There are thousands of children waiting for adoption in South Africa. Many of the children have special needs and need an adoptive family ready and excited to help them thrive! Spence-Chapin finds families for the most vulnerable children – the children who are ready for adoption and need an international adoptive family. In South Africa, these are kids from 18 months – 8 years old with an identified medical diagnosis. Families considering adopting a child with special needs have many questions, including what are the most common diagnoses?

Here are the most common medical needs as seen by Spence-Chapin, one of two American agencies accredited to provide adoption services in South Africa.

  • HIV
  • Prematurity
  • Developmental delays
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Auditory impairments
  • Visual impairments
  • Cognitive limitations
  • Brain abnormalities
  • Macrocephaly
  • Microcephaly

3. Rich and Diverse History

South Africa is a diverse place with many cultures and people of different races and ethnicities living throughout the country. The country’s major cities offer economic opportunity for people around the world and have large immigrant populations from within Africa, Asia, and Europe. There are eleven official languages of South Africa, including English. Families adopting a South African child bring a rich and diverse history into their family. It is important for adoptive families to have the opportunity to learn about their child’s birth culture. Families adopting through Spence-Chapin, one of two American agencies accredited to provide adoption services in South Africa, take day-trips to experience and learn about South African culture and history during their trip to finalize the adoption. One of South Africa’s official languages is English which means it’s relatively easy for American families to communicate during their trip to South Africa!

4. There are Children who are HIV+ in Need of Adoption

There are thousands of children in South Africa living with HIV. While access to anti-retroviral treatment in South Africa has increased in recent years, HIV/AIDS remains a prominent health concern in the country. Children born with the HIV virus have the opportunity to lead long, full and healthy lives. However, the social stigma in South Africa concerning HIV has led to many children living in institutions. Many prospective adoptive families have appropriate concerns about the prognosis and treatment for a child with HIV. Parents should assess themselves and their community before moving forward.

For example: Are there expert medical resources nearby? What are the states laws protecting a person who is HIV+ from discrimination? Can your family commit to the treatment regimen?

Some children in South Africa have access to quality medical care before adoption. We are fortunate to partner with  Johannesburg Child Welfare (JCW) which is a highly respected, 100+ year old NGO that provides services to over 4,000 children and families in Jo’burg annually. The children living in JCW’s care are cared for in orphanages with caring staff that are run like small group homes or in foster homes. JCW partners with a Thusanani Children’s Foundation to provide safe and modern medical care to ensure each child receives the medical care they need – HIV testing and treatment, occupational therapy, physical therapy, antibiotics, surgery, well-baby visits, etc.

5. Hague Adoption Process

South Africa is signatory to the Hague Treaty on Intercountry Adoption so adoptive families have the benefits of the Hague Treaty, which is designed to ensure that international adoption is a transparent and ethical process with an established infrastructure to protect and support children and families.

We know that the children in need of international adoption in South Africa have exhausted their opportunities to be adopted domestically and their social workers are actively looking for an international adoptive family.

Spence-Chapin is a Hague accredited full-service, non-profit organization providing adoption and adoption related services for over 100 years. If you are interested in more information about adoption from South Africa, please visit us online, email us at, or call us at 212-400-8150 to learn more!



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