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Adoption is the process where a person applies in court to be considered as the parent of a child, in so doing, permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities from the biological parent or parents. Couples applying for adoption must be prepared to answer personal questions about themselves and their marriage. If they are childless, they will probably be asked whether they have taken medical advice on infertility. But there is no legal requirement that they must be infertile before they can adopt. Adoption agencies are wary about the possibility of a couple trying to adopt a child in order to save their marriage.

Who may be adopted?
Any child (a person younger than 18 years of age) may be adopted, where:
• s/he is an orphan and there is no legal guardian/s or caregiver/s willing to adopt him/her;
• his/her parent/s or legal guardian/s cannot be established;
• s/he was abandoned, for example, the child had no contact with his/her parent/s or legal guardian/s for at least 3 months;
• s/he was abused or neglected by his/her parent/s, legal guardian/s or caregiver/s; or
• s/he needs a permanent home.

What happens during adoption process?
• A consent must be given, meaning:
• Each parent of the child (whether married to each other or not) and/or every legal guardian, where applicable.
• If the child is older than 10 years of age, s/he must also give consent.
• If the child is younger than 10 years of age, his/her consent will only be required if s/he has the maturity and understanding to consent to the adoption.
• Consent must be reduced to writing, signed by the person giving the consent and verified by the Children’s Court.

What is the adoption procedure?
• When a child becomes available for adoption, a notice must be served by the sheriff on each parent and/or guardian to request his/her consent to the adoption.
• An interview should be arranged with a social worker who will compile a report
• If the adoption is in the best interest of the child; there must be medical information in relation to the child; and the eligibility of the prospective parent/s.
• An application for the adoption of a child can be made in the Children’s Court and must:
• be accompanied by the report of the social worker; a letter by the provincial head of Social Development recommending the adoption of the child; and
• Include the necessary consent forms, where applicable.
• The Children’s Court must take these factors into account before considering whether to allow the adoption:
• The community, religious and cultural background of the child, the child’s parent/s, and the prospective parent/s;
• Certain fees might be payable during the adoption process, such as professional fees for medical expenses or fees payable to the relevant child protection organisation who assisted with the adoption.
• If an adoption order has been granted by the Children’s Court, the order, together with the birth certificate of the child, must be taken to the relevant Home Affairs office to record the adoption and any change in surname, where applicable.

What are the consequences of adoption?
• An adopted child is regarded as the biological child of the adoptive parent/s and all parental rights and responsibilities his/her biological parent/s or previous legal guardian/s had will be terminated.
• The adoptive child takes the surname of the adoptive parent/s (unless the Children’s Court states otherwise).
• An adoption will not affect the adoptive child’s rights to property s/he obtained before the adoption.
• If a man who has married a widow adopts his wife’s child, the adoption of his stepchild does not affect the rights and obligations between the child, the mother and the mother’s relatives.

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