Answer to a question from a reader

How can I adopt my minor relative's baby?

The short answer

You should contact the Department of Social Development, but the baby needs a birth certificate first.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

My 14-year-old sister-in-law left her baby on my doorstep - she is too young to care for the child. She gave me the clinic card and all the papers she has for the baby. How can I adopt the baby?

The long answer

These are the documents you would need to take to Home Affairs to register the baby’s birth and get a birth certificate with the baby’s ID number on it:

  • If the baby was born at a health facility, the form DHA 24/PB (proof of birth);

  • If the baby was born at home, DHA 24/PBA (proof of birth affidavit);

  • If it is more than 30 days after the baby’s birth, DHA 288/A (affidavit giving reasons for late registration of birth);

  • Biometrics – (palm, foot or fingerprint of the baby to be registered and fingerprints of parents.

A parent, parents, a guardian or any other person legally responsible for the child must complete form B1-24 with black ink only and submit it to Home Affairs.

In your situation, where you are taking responsibility for your sister-in-law’s baby, you would be acting as guardian to get the birth certificate that will enable you to adopt the child, if that is what you intend to do, or to be accepted as the child’s legal guardian. 

The clinic card should have your sister-in-law’s name and ID number on it, and if it is more than 30 days after the birth, you can explain the circumstances in the DHA 288/A (affidavit giving reasons for late registration of birth). If it is possible, your sister-in-law should accompany you to Home Affairs, and she might have to make an affidavit saying that she is a minor child and agrees that you should be the child’s guardian or adoptive parent. Both you and your sister-in-law should bring certified copies of your IDs. If it is after 30 days, you may have to pay a fee for the birth certificate.

The Children’s Act of 2005 applies to adoption, and the Act is based on the best interests of the child. The Department of Social Development (DSD) is the government department responsible for adoptions. Birth parents are allowed to say who they would prefer to adopt their child. As it is the policy of the DSD to keep families together, becoming the child’s legal guardian or adoptive parent should not be a problem for you.

In order to apply to the Children’s Court for an adoption order, you need to be interviewed by a social worker. You can employ a private social worker or you can ask the DSD for a social worker. The social worker will do a very thorough check of your background, your health and lifestyle, your income and expenditure and whether they think you will provide a good home for the child. A psychological evaluation is required and the social worker will visit your home. You will also need to obtain a police clearance certificate and you will need to be checked against the Sexual Offences Register and get a Form 30 clearance.

The social worker will compile a report that says if the adoption is in the best interest of the child, and also contains medical information about the child. This report will be sent to the Children’s Court. 

You must apply to adopt the child in the Children’s Court. Any magistrate’s court will also act as a Children’s Court. The first step of the adoption process is that the sheriff must serve a notice on each parent to ask them to agree in writing that the child can be adopted. In the case of your minor sister-in-law, she can be assisted to write giving her permission for you to adopt her baby.

The adoption must then be approved by the Department of Social Development in the province, which issues a 239(d) letter to confirm the adoption. Then the file is sent to a magistrate in the Children’s Court to look at, together with the social worker’s report, to approve the adoption. The court will then grant an adoption order. This order may take several months to come through. The adoption order changes the surname of the child, and declares that the child is now legally the adoptive parent’s child, “as if born to them”. 

You must then submit a certified copy of the adoption order to Home Affairs to be registered. You must complete Form BI-193, and give Home Affairs a written request to record the adoption and pay the fee for recording an adoption. Home Affairs will give you a new birth certificate and ID number for the child and will have the child’s name officially changed, if that is what you choose to do. 

Home Affairs can take anything up to a year to register the adoption.

The baby is very fortunate that you are willing and able to take care of it.

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Oct. 4, 2022, 3:37 p.m.

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