10 Questions About Adopting from South Africa

Spence-Chapin began its adoption program in South Africa in 2013 and partners withJohannesburg Child Welfare Society (JCW), a social service agency serving Johannesburg families since 1909. Spence-Chapin’s adoption program finds families for young children with special needs and sibling groups.

Who are the children waiting to be adopted?

Boys and girls with medical needs ages 1-12 years old. There are many families adopting toddlers with special needs from South Africa. Children will reflect the full range of ethnicity that exists in South Africa, especially in the Johannesburg area and adoptive families are asked to be open to adopting a child of either gender.

Who is eligible to adopt?

Many types of families! Single parents (men or women) as well as married & unmarried heterosexual and lesbian or gay couples can adopt! Parents over 48 years old should consult with Spence-Chapin.

What are the most common medical needs?

Check out this article on the Top 10 Medical Needs in South Africa! Common medical conditions include HIV, extreme prematurity, developmental delays, auditory and visual impairments and unpredictable cognitive challenges. Due to the HIV epidemic, there is a specific need in finding adoptive families for children who are HIV+. 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. JCW strives to provide an environment that caters to the overall development of the children in their care which includes their physical, emotional, spiritual, and educational needs.

It’s recommend that families considering adopting a child with medical needs consult with a pediatrician about diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of specific conditions to consider if your family has the ability to provide the care a child will need. There are many experienced international adoption medical specialty clinics throughout the United States that are a resource for prospective adoptive families.

Who is Jo’burg Child Welfare (JCW) and what experience does this organization have?

Spence-Chapin’s partner, Johannesburg Child Welfare Society (JCW) is experienced in international adoptions with European and American families and has formalized procedures in place. JCW is involved in all phases of the adoption process from monitoring the children in care to providing adoptive families with cultural activities while in South Africa. JCW is responsible for written reports on the children, assessment of families, and providing the Central Authority with recommendations regarding adoption.

Do the children in care in South Africa speak English?

Yes, South Africans speak English as well as many other languages! Adoption documents will not need to be translated.

Are the children in South Africa typically in foster care or orphanages?

Jo’burg Child Welfare (JCW) has both foster care and orphan

ages, or children’s homes to care for children. Younger children are generally in orphanage care and older children may be in foster or group home care. In 2011, Spence-Chapin established its first Granny Program in Africa at the Othendweni Family Care Center, an orphanage in Soweto that is home to 90 children – 30 of whom range in age from newborn to four years old.  Through the Granny program, children are paired with surrogate “grannies” from their local community, who spend special, one-on-one time with each of them. During our visits we’ve witnessed the commitment of the staff and Grannies, and the genuine concern for the children.

Are the children religious?

A young child will have few memories of holiday traditions and no understanding of theology. If a child has been exposed to religious practices, they are most likely Christian. The country is roughly 75% Christian according to 2001 census data.

What is the estimated time frame to be matched with a child?

Families can expect to be matched with a child within 12-18 months of dossier submission and travel 3-4 months later to meet the child and finalize the adoption. We recommend families wait to begin the process until they would feel comfortable with this timeframe and there are no children younger than 18 months old in the home.

Are sibling groups in need of adoption?

Yes, there are siblings in need of adoption. Most likely one child would be over age 6.

What do families say about adopting from South Africa?

After years of searching for the right program, Chris and Mary finally decided that the South Africa program at Spence-Chapin was a perfect fit for their family. According to Mary, they came to this conclusion because they were encouraged by the answers that they got about the South Africa program. They liked that the children placed internationally tend to fall into a more vulnerable category of having special needs, being older, or being part of a sibling group. And also “we were encouraged by Spence-Chapin’s enthusiasm about the program and their honesty about the adoption process.”

The Davila family was struck by the commitment of the staff to the children in their care at Johannesburg Child Welfare (JCW), Spence-Chapin’s partner agency in South Africa. Mary says that their social worker was “a saint who advocates tirelessly for the children and also manages to be 100% on top of all of the paperwork involved in an adoption.” They took comfort in knowing that their social worker would be by their side in every meeting in South Africa and that she knew their daughter: her personality, likes, and dislikes. She was available to answer questions at any hour of the day and clearly loved the children.

Chris and Mary have been home with Etta for about eight months. They describe Etta as “playful, hilariously funny, and sweet, sweet, sweet. “According to Mary, their family transition has been very smooth.

Learn more about adopting a toddler from South Africa by clicking here or emailing info@spence-chapin.org.

How to Adopt from South Africa from Anywhere in the United States

Adoption from South Africa opened to American families in 2013. Since then, Spence-Chapin has been one of just two U.S. agencies approved by the South African Central Authority – and we have been actively finding families ever since!

In South Africa, young children with medical and developmental needs as well as siblings who are considered medically healthy are waiting to be matched with families. All types of parents can adopt from South Africa – married couples, unmarried couples, LGBTQ parents, single women, and single menFamilies residing anywhere in the United States can adopt from South Africa.

Let’s outline the steps to adopting from South Africa through Spence-Chapin. Spence-Chapin has paperwork experts and we joke that we haven’t lost someone to paperwork yet! Our team is here to guide adoptive parents through each step and make sure the i’s get dotted and the t’s get crossed.

For families living in the NY/NJ Metro area, Spence-Chapin conducts the home study preparation and training as well as coordinates the adoption process from South Africa. For families residing outside of the NY/NJ Metro area, Spence-Chapin is able to establish a partnership with a family’s local Hague-Accredited home study provider anywhere in the country to coordinate the adoption process from South Africa.

How to Adopt through Spence-Chapin’s South Africa Adoption Program

  1. Application:

The first step is to submit an adoption application. An international adoption application can be downloaded for free from Spence-Chapin’s website. When Spence-Chapin receives a family’s application for the South Africa Adoption Program, our adoption team reviews your family’s background to ensure eligibility requirements set by the country are met. Applications are reviewed weekly at Spence-Chapin by our Adoption Team. The purpose of the application is for Spence-Chapin to gain a full view of your family and the child you intend to adopt. This information allows Spence-Chapin to begin to assess eligibility for adoption programs and set expectations for the rest of the adoption process.

Once a family has completed the application phase, Spence-Chapin welcomes your family into the program.

Adoptive families will apply to both Spence-Chapin and their home study agency. If you have not yet located an agency in your area, Spence-Chapin can assist you with finding a reputable home study agency that can provide Hague Home Study preparation and training. If you have already begun the home study process, Spence-Chapin will connect with your local agency to ensure proper licensure and Hague Accreditation. The two agencies will sign an agreement to work together.

  1. Home Study and Dossier Preparation:

Once an adoptive family is officially moving forward with an adoption from South Africa, Spence-Chapin will provide guidance to your local social worker on any home study recommendations to meet the requirements of South Africa and our partners, Johannesburg Child Welfare (JCW). Throughout the home study process, families will learn about core adoption issues and prepare to adopt a child with special needs. Prior to finalizing a home study, Spence-Chapin will review the document and provide feedback to the local social worker.

 

While you are completing your home study with the local agency, Spence-Chapin’s document specialist will provide step-by-step guidance on putting together the dossier for South Africa. A dossier is the packet of paperwork that an adoptive family will submit to be considered as potential adoptive family in South Africa. Every country determines the documents that are required in a dossier and the Spence-Chapin team are experts at preparing the South Africa dossier paperwork. The document specialist reviews each document to ensure accuracy and provides assistance on authenticating documents on the state, US government and consulate/embassy levels. When a dossier is complete, the family sends it to Spence-Chapin for a final review and Spence-Chapin will submit the dossier to JCW in South Africa.

Once the dossier is submitted, the family is officially waiting to be matched with a child in need of adoption!

  1. Child Referral:

Spence-Chapin and the local social worker will provide support to the family during the wait for your child’s referral. The wait time to be matched with a child is approximately 12-18 months after dossier submission. A referral is the packet of paperwork the South African social workers compile about a child in need of adoption. It includes the child’s known social and medical history. When the referral arrives, Spence-Chapin will send the family all information and photos provided by JCW on the child. The family will review the medical history with a Medical Specialist and support from Spence-Chapin. Spence-Chapin will communicate the family’s decision about moving forward with an adoption to JCW’s social worker. When this much-anticipated time comes, families decide whether or not they are ready to make an unconditional, lifelong commitment to another person whom they may never have met! Spence-Chapin’s adoption team is available to the family to discuss questions, concerns, and more as the family makes this decision.

  1. Travel:

Once a family has accepted a child referral, Spence-Chapin will prepare the family for travel to South Africa! The Spence-Chapin team will schedule a meeting to prepare for and review all the details of the trip and how to complete the adoption. Adoptive families should expect to stay in the Johannesburg area for 2-4 weeks to complete the adoption. Families will be fully escorted in South Africa by JCW social workers to all the official appointments throughout their trip. While in South Africa, families can communicate remotely with Spence-Chapin staff by phone and email as well as receive ongoing contact with social work staff from JCW. Fortunately, English is one of the official languages of South Africa and so it is very common to read and speak English throughout Johannesburg. Parents are welcome to bring children, family, or close friends on the trip.

  1. Post Adoption:

Upon arrival home, an adoption from South Africa will be considered full and final under South African law and the children will be granted full U.S. citizenship. Spence-Chapin will provide instructions to families on obtaining all documents related to the adoption, including the certificate of U.S. citizenship, passport and social security card.

After homecoming, families will complete post-adoption reports with their local social worker. Spence-Chapin will guide your local social worker on the post-adoption requirements for South Africa and submit reports and photos to JCW.

Following an adoption from South Africa and for the lifetime of your family, Spence-Chapin welcomes adoptive families to attend annual events, travel to NYC to visit the agency and to engage post adoption services through our Modern Family Center. Spence-Chapin’s Modern Family Center offers parent coaching and post adoption support, over the phone or via video conferencing in all 50 states.

If you are interested in more information about adoption from South Africa, please visit us online, email us at info@spence-chapin.org, or call us at 212-400-8150.

Tribute Giving: Maria

donation, tribute gift

Maria Gacovino, a Spence-Chapin adoptee of Colombian heritage, celebrated her Quinceanera this year. Along with her parents, Steve and Christine, Maria wanted to do something special to mark the occasion , and decided to use the celebration to raise funds and awareness about international adoption.

Maria, along with brother Michael, were adopted from Colombia, while their brother Luke was adopted domestically, each through Spence-Chapin. Maria’s goal was to ensure that more waiting children in Colombia had the opportunity to be matched with loving, permanent families.

The Gacovinos’ along with their family and friends, eventually raised over $10,000.00 in support of Spence-Chapin’s International Adoption programs and our humanitarian “Granny” program. This funding will go primarily to ensuring that older children, sibling groups, and children with special needs living in international child care centers in Colombia, Bulgaria, and South Africa are placed with waiting families. We are proud to be a part of Maria’s Quinceanera and to have the Gacovinos as a part of the Spence-Chapin Community.

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December 2nd is Giving Tuesday, a global initiative to inspire people to give back to the charities and causes that they celebrate. At Spence-Chapin, we work to connect children with permanent homes, deep parental love, and a lifelong sense of security. We can help more children find homes by alleviating all financial barriers to families looking to adopt – but we cannot do this without you! Please participate in Giving Tuesday by making a contribution to the Spence-Chapin Annual Fund

Adopting a Child with HIV

Last year we were thrilled to announce the opening of our South Africa adoption program.  Since then, we have learned more about the process, the children and the needs of the South African child welfare community.  We have learned that in South Africa, the number of children in need of families continues to grow and that these children are AIDS orphans who need families that can care for them properly.  In all, there are an estimated 3.7 million orphans in South Africa: children who are no longer babies, children with special needs and children who are part of sibling groups often remain in orphanages for years, waiting for a loving family to change their lives.

Soon after opening this program we met Megan and Cameron.adoptive family Already experienced parents (2 sons adopted from Ethiopia and Uganda), Megan and Cameron felt their family was still not quite complete.  As the couple started to look into their options, one theme kept rising above the rest; in blogs and forums and from their own hearts came the idea of adopting a child with HIV.  As Megan put it, “We did not know much about HIV – I knew that Magic Johnson had HIV. That’s about it.”  But soon they learned more – a great deal more.  They learned that with the right medication, children can have happy lives with a normal life expectancy.  They even learned that, despite the stigma the disease still carries, the CDC (Center For Disease Control) has actually removed HIV from its list of communicable diseases. Knowing this, the couple approached Spence-Chapin to adopt a child from South Africa diagnosed with HIV.  They are now in the process of completing the paperwork and hope for a child match soon.

Megan and Cameron know that in the future, their choice to parent a child with HIV HIV Quotewill be questioned.  They know they have a journey ahead to educate their community and to line up the resources their child will need to live a full life.  When asked what it is about their family that led them to this choice, when so many others tend to overlook these children, the couple seemed surprised by the question.  Says Megan, “I don’t think our family is any different; I just think we have been given the proper education.  We have the information, so we do not fear the HIV stigma. This is something all families can learn!”

As with many of the other international programs in which we work, we see children who are waiting for a family longer than any child should have to.  Children born with the HIV virus have the opportunity to lead long, full and healthy lives, but only if the child welfare and medical communities join forces to provide the care and permanency that every child deserves.  As we grow our South Africa program, our commitment to these children is stronger than ever.  With education, advocacy and adoption, we hope to provide every child with what Megan and Cameron hope for their future child: “We want people to love our child as a person first.  We want them to see that our child is in no way diminished or stigmatized and with no asterisk beside his or her name.”

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Adoption from South Africa

Megan and Cameron now… 2 sons from Ethiopia and Uganda, and a daughter from South Africa.

 

Championing the Waiting Child

This summer we traveled to Colombia, South Africa and Uganda to explore opportunities to expand our reach to help more children. Visiting these countries and meeting with their child welfare representatives solidified our resolve to find adoptive homes for children there. During our trips, we witnessed the love and care these children receive but also were acutely aware of the staff making do with what little resources they had. In each country we clearly observed the changing face of adoption and saw the many school-aged children, sibling groups and children with special needs who are waiting for a family of their own. Because we feel that that every child deserves a home, championing the adop­tion of these children is part of what Spence-Chapin does.

Our time in Colombia was inspiring, encouraging and sobering. Having met with the Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF – The Colombian Institute of Family Welfare within the Ministry of Social Protection), our staff was impressed by the level of care provided to the approximately 9,000 children in their custody. In each adoption house visited, we encountered psychologists, social workers and other professional staff helping children prepare for adoption, and yet no forever families were on the horizon for these children.

In South Africa there is no question about the number of children needing permanency; by 2015 there will be more than 5.5 million orphans in South Africa. As one of just two U.S. agencies approved by the South African Central Authority to place children with American families, we are delighted to partner in this initiative with Johannesburg Child Welfare Society (JCW). Our similar mission and history of having worked together on our Granny program, make this partnership a natural fit. We have officially launched this program and are eagerly accepting applica­tions for adoption. We are excited about placing children with black families as well as families who will open their hearts and homes to the children most likely not to be adopted in South Africa because of their age or medical needs.

In Uganda, we learned about the millions of orphans and their extremely limited options. When parents die some children are taken in by relatives but many others try to survive on the streets. While there, we established a strong relationship with MIFUMI, a Ugandan international aid and development agency. MIFUMI is opening doors for us to explore child welfare and adoption needs in Uganda, and while program development can take some time, we are already looking at opportunities for James, a 5-year-old boy who does not have family to care for him, who does not have a local children’s home to care for him, and with no other option, is living in a domestic violence shelter among women and chil­dren experiencing repeated trauma. We see James and the difficult situations he has already had in his short life, and we are moved to create something better for him and the millions of other children in situations like his.

In the past year, we’ve talked much about the changing face of adoption, but what we know has not changed is the number of chil­dren, particularly older children, sibling sets, and children with special needs, waiting to be adopted. Spence-Chapin has refocused efforts to help all families afford adoption by offering Adoptionships and specialized pre-adoptive parent preparation and training that will enable families to feel more confident about opening their homes to these children. It is with your ongoing commitment and needed support that we move forward with passion and dedi­cation as we refine our vision and enhance our services to these resilient children and their adoptive forever families.

Visit our Flickr page to see pictures from this trip.

Read more about Waiting Children on our site.

South Africa Adoption Program: Program Development

Orphanages around the world have one thing in common: beautiful children who deserve a loving family to call their own.  While this theme is consistent, there are numerous differences that set them apart.  As the Coordinator of Program Development at Spence-Chapin, it is my responsibility to establish adoption programs that will be successful.  Success, in this context, is defined as identifying countries where there are children in need of families and confirming that the country has systems in place to process adoptions in a transparent and ethical manner.  South Africa meets these criteria perfectly.

Spence-Chapin South Afica Adoption Program

So what makes South Africa different?  Having placed children with families from Belgium and Finland for many years, Johannesburg Child Welfare Society (JCW) is experienced in international adoptions and has formalized procedures in place.  They are involved in all phases of the adoption process from monitoring the children in care to providing families with a cultural integration program while in South Africa.  JCW is responsible for written reports on the children, assessment of families, and providing the Central Authority with recommendations for placement; the process that JCW has established is about as seamless as it gets.

 

The care of the children is another area where this program differentiates itself.  JCW strives to provide an environment that caters to the overall development of the children in their care which includes their physical, emotional, spiritual, and educational needs. While many orphanages around the world struggle to meet the basic needs of the children in their care, the orphanages we visited in SoutSpence-Chapin South African Adoption Programh Africa were able to go above and beyond.  Understanding the critical impact that physical and emotional contact has during a child’s early stages of development, in 2011 Spence-Chapin established its first Granny Program in Africa at the Othendweni Family Care Center, an orphanage in Soweto that is home to 90 children—30 of whom range in age from just a few days old to four years.  Through this program, children are paired with experienced women in these communities, who spend special, one-on-one time with each of them. During our visit in July 2012 we witnessed the commitment of the staff and Grannies, and the genuine concern for the children.  Additionally, JCW has contracted with outside organizations including The Big Shoes Foundation and Thusanani Children’s Foundation who provide medical and developmental servicesJCW provides the children in their care with a solid foundation which inevitably makes the transition into their forever family that much smoother.

In short, when examining international adoption options, need and infrastructure often do not go hand in hand.  However, South Africa proves that it can be done and as a result children receive the critical love and care they need until they join their forever family.

 Gina Pariani, Spence-Chapin
 

Visit our Flickr set to see more pictures from this trip.