November is an important month in the adoption community. The 9th of November is #World Adoption Day, a global day to raise awareness of adoption, and it is celebrated throughout the month of November.
Interestingly, for us as a family, November has always been a significant month in regards to our own adoption journey. It was in November 2011 that we visited a children’s home for the first time. A few years later, also in the month of November, we met a little boy who almost instantly found a place in our hearts – our son whom we fostered to adopt.
It is so easy to love a child even where our rights in respect of that child are limited. Really, it is. Risky yes, but if we open our hearts and allow ourselves to do so, we open ourselves up to the possibility of a lifelong, loving and fulfilling relationship that will surpass our greatest expectations.
As those of us who choose to walk this path know full well, adoption is borne out of loss. The loss experienced by the biological parent – no matter her reasons for abandoning or formally giving up her child for adoption, as well as that experienced by the child – no matter his or her age at the time of adoption.
While it is a relatively straightforward and speedy process to foster a child (but by no means an easy one, given the administrative requirements for would-be foster parents), it is, by contrast, a challenging and lengthy process to adopt. Not only in South Africa but around the world. Partly because it is of the utmost importance to first ensure the welfare of the child and whether it is in his or her best interests before placing a child in his or her “forever” home. Added to this, is the fact that government processes, by their very nature, take time and can be seemingly never ending.
In the meantime, the child concerned continues to grow and develop often outside the context of a loving family, which brings its own set of challenges, even long term psychological implications for the child going forward. This is why we as a family chose to foster our son while finalising the adoption. The idea of missing out on any time with him was impossible to contemplate even though it would pose an emotional risk. For us, there was no choice. We were always of the mind that we would one day adopt him and so from day one, even before we were issued with a foster care order, we loved him as our own, holding nothing back.
According to the National Adoption Coalition of South Africa, there are approximately 3 million orphans in South Africa. This includes over 500 000 maternal orphans, 1.8 million paternal orphans and more than 600 000 double orphans.
In contrast, the latest adoption statistics for South Africa reflect that for the period April 2017 – 31 March 2018, a mere 1033 national adoptions and 153 international adoptions were finalised. To further add to this bleak picture, year on year there has been a steady decline in the number of adoptions taking place in South Africa.
Faced with these statistics, many of us might feel overwhelmed and not know where to start or how to help. In such situations, I find it helpful to ask the question: With so much need, what does God expect of me?
In James 1 v 27 we read that the religion God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is to look after the widow and the orphan in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. There are also many other scriptures regarding how God views the fatherless amongst us, such as to be found in Psalm 68 v 5, which states that He is a father to the fatherless.
So what can we do to take care of the orphans in our communities?
We can reach out to the organisations, groups and individuals already doing good work in our communities, with a view to:
- Adopting a child;
- Fostering a child;
- Sponsoring a child in regard to his or her daily needs;
- Volunteering our time at a children’s home near us;
- Donating resources, be it financial or otherwise; or
- Educating a child.
Certainly, not all of us are in a position to adopt a child. But we can, in our own unique way, do something to help. For as believers, we are responsible for the plight of all our children.