#WorldAdoptionDay – South African Context … My Context

It is estimated that South Africa has over 3 million orphaned children

In 2010, there was an estimated 510 713 children living in foster care.

In 2009, it was estimated that over 150 000 children living in child headed households

In 2009, it was estimated that there were over 14 500 children living in state owned children’s homes.

And you can bet, those figures have risen significantly in the last few years.

Statistics on children in South Africa: – There are 18.5 million children in South Africa. – Of these children, 4.5 million live with neither of their parents. – Orphans have increased by 30% over the decade to approximately 5.2 million children. – Over this same period, foster care grants have increased by over 70% whilst adoption has decreased by more than 50%. – An estimated 150 000 children live in child headed households, over 13 000 live in residential care facilities and an estimated 10 000 live on the streets of South Africa. – In 2013, over 11 million children were registered for child support grants and over half a million children for foster care grants.


Adoption statistics

According to the most recent statistics on adoptions, as released by the National Department of Social Development, there were 14 803 legal adoptions registered in South Africa for the period 1 April 2004 to 31 March 2010. That amounts to more or less 2 400 adoptions per year. This number includes related adoptions.

This amounts to a relatively small percentage of children placed when compared to alternative forms of legal care, such as foster care and residential care (refer to the table below). When considering the high and ever growing number of children orphaned and abandoned, it is clear that despite the high estimated number of adoptable children the annual number of adoptions has stayed low and static over the past six years.

When comparing national adoptions with intercountry adoption statistics, the average number of children placed for intercountry adoptions per year is 238 – a very small figure. Currently there are no statistics available that can give an accurate breakdown of the number of same-race and inter-race adoptions in South Africa.

Statistics provided by

Twice as many children were abandoned in the past year compared to the year before, the Johannesburg Child Welfare centre said. Thousands of children a year are being abandoned, with the number reaching at least 1 200 in three provinces alone, the Sowetan newspaper reported on Tuesday.

More than 40 children are being dumped in the Free State every month. Mondli Mvambi, spokesperson for the Department of Social Development, said 477 children were reported abandoned in the past 12 months. KwaZulu-Natal is also reporting high figures, especially of newborn babies, but only sporadic cases are being reported in Limpopo. Linda Naidoo, spokesperson for Childline, said more children were being abandoned in KwaZulu-Natal, mainly because of poverty.

KwaZulu-Natal is one of the poorest provinces in the country and that’s why we have so many such cases. HIV-Aids is another cause because many mothers find themselves unable to cope with the demands of raising an HIV-positive baby, she said. Khosi Msibi from the Johannesburg Child Welfare centre said the organisation deals with about 32 cases a month, an increase from last year’s eight. We get referrals from the police, hospitals and community members.

Chris Hani-Baragwanath and Johannesburg hospitals also refer a lot of cases to us, she said. Katimka Pieterse, a social worker at ASM Abba Adoptions in Pretoria, blamed social problem such as unemployment for the rate at which children were being abandoned. Pieterse said most children were abandoned at hospitals and by immigrant mothers, often because of rape or HIV/Aids.

Mothers are ashamed to come out and say I was raped, now I have a child’. And the only option they have is to abandon the child, she said. She said mothers could take unwanted children to the police or leave them with a nurse at a hospital.

I firmly believe we are failing mothers everywhere! Women don’t dump babies, I believe that this is rarely an act of callousness but rather an act of desperation, of poverty and of lack of information. Young women especially, are not informed, they do not know about the resources available to them. They do not know they have options, they are scared, terrified actually and ashamed, they feel they have no one to turn to.

Last year, I participated in #WorldAdoptionDay and was attacked by Americans about my views, they clearly do not know or understand the South African context.

Is adoption perfect? No. But what is better? My children were loved. Their birth mothers made this choice, this sacrifice as an act of love, not out of callousness or carelessness. They chose to have their unplanned babies when they could have had an abortion. They chose to place their children in loving homes, they did not “give their children up”

In South Africa, we do not pay for babies, we pay for the services of adoption agencies. Adoption is not a get rich big business scheme in South Africa as it is in America. Adoption is a necessity caused by our unique circumstance.

Is it perfect? No.

Is it flawed? Yes

But would it be better for children to grow up institutionalized in state homes? Than to be placed in a loving family? HELL NO!

On #WorldAdoptionDay and every day, I am grateful to our birth mothers and all the women like them, who made this incredibly painful choice, who sacrificed themselves for their children.

Today, I ask you to put aside every preconceived notion you’ve ever had about adoption and remember than in 99% of cases, adoption is LOVE.

Adoption creates families for children and NOT children for families.

Adoption is mothers love in it’s truest form, or at least thats been my experience with our birth mothers.

The next time you have judgy thoughts about women who place their babies for adoption, remember this…. could you/would you be able to sacrifice yourself for your children? Would you live with the grief and the pain of that loss? Placing a baby is the most unselfish thing a woman can do.

Today, I remember our birth moms…. I remember our placement days, I remember the contradictions of it…. the joy and the grief, the pain and the awe, a life broken and a family created.


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We used reputable social workers, we followed the process legally and lawfully, we do not believe, and our birth mothers have assured us of this, that they were not coerced. We have ethical adoptions. We did not buy babies. We are part of a solution and not part of a problem. But first and foremost…..

We are a family!



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  • Reply Sian

    Beautifully written.

    November 9, 2015 at 7:59 pm
  • Reply Lindsay Thomas

    I’d love to read more about your adoptions, what was going through your mind when those pictures were taken. Tge feelings you had!

    Love it! You guys are beautiful!

    November 10, 2015 at 11:11 am
    • Reply Sharon

      Thanks Lindsay, if you read through my archives under the adoption tag, you will find the entries about our placement days there.

      November 11, 2015 at 10:42 am
  • Reply catjuggles

    And a beautiful beautiful one filled with love.

    November 10, 2015 at 11:45 am
  • Reply brettfish

    Love this – i have just started a running a series looking at transracial adoption where different families give glimpses into their situations and experiences in that area:

    love brett fish

    November 13, 2015 at 9:52 am
  • Reply South African Mom Blogs - November Roundup and Linky - South African Mom Blogs

    […] Sharon has some frightening statistics of orphans in #WorldAdoptionDay – South African Context – My Context. […]

    December 1, 2015 at 7:34 am
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