Answer to a question from a reader

How can I adopt my relative's baby?

The short answer

Apply to the Children's Court for an adoption order. There will be checks to make sure you will be a fit parent.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

What the process is to adopt my sister-in-law’s expected baby? My sister-in-law has three children, who she is finding very difficult to maintain, and wants to give me this fourth child, as I have no children of my own.

The long answer

It sounds like an excellent idea. The Department of Social Development (DSD), which is the government department responsible for adoptions, is in favour of keeping families together, and birth parents are allowed to say who they would like to adopt their child. So, you should not find it difficult to satisfy them that you should be granted the adoption.

Adoptions take place under the Children’s Act of 2005 and the main idea is that the adoption should be in the best interests of the child.

For a start, the baby’s birth must be registered by its parents within 30 days of the birth.

The Children’s Court is the court that handles adoptions. You must apply to the Children’s Court (which can be any magistrate’s court) for an adoption order. The sheriff of the Children’s Court must serve a notice on each birth parent to ask for their written consent to the adoption.

To succeed in applying for the adoption order, you must be interviewed by a social worker, who will give a report to the Children’s Court. You can ask the DSD for a social worker or you can employ a private 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. The social worker will do a psychological evaluation of you and 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. It will also contain medical information about the child. This report will be sent to the Children’s Court. 

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, which must also contain the consent forms of the birth parents, is sent to a magistrate in the Children’s Court, together with the social worker’s report, to see if the adoption should be approved. If the court is satisfied that the adoption is in the child’s best interest, an adoption order will be granted. 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 (DHA) 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 want to do. 

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

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Feb. 29, 2024, 9:04 p.m.

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