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There are many reasons people choose to adopt a child – from wanting to expand their families to the inability to have a family naturally. Adopting a child is not a decision made lightly, but a huge step that requires careful planning, research and understanding of the process. And sometimes, the realities of raising an adopted child can be more overwhelming than raising one’s own flesh and blood.
Sharon van Wyk, author and owner of the blog, ‘The Blessed Barrenness’, can testify to these realities. In the article, ‘What You Need to Know About Adoption in SA’, she describes her journey of becoming an adoptive mother. Sharon has adopted two daughters; the eldest was placed in her care as a newborn in 2009, and the youngest came to her in 2013. The adoption of both children was administered under the Children’s Act.
Sharon shares her tips here, to help prospective parents navigate the adoption process. Written in partnership with Hippo.co.za*, here are three lessons adoption has taught her.
Additional care may be needed during the first year
South Africa’s new Children’s Act requires that an adoptable child be in a place of safety for the duration of the 60-day consent period before placement. This can lead to huge amounts of post-placement stress in adoptees. Sharon’s second daughter was with her biological mother for a very short period before she was transferred to the hospital maternity ward and to a place of safety for two months after that. When she came to Sharon she was under emotional strain to such an extent that she didn’t want to be touched.
To ease things for her daughter, Sharon spent six months providing additional care and therapy for her through occupational therapy.
Make sure you research and understand the effects of adoption on the adoptees
It’s essential to ask the right questions during the screening process – including how the adopted child might react to being adopted. In Sharon’s case, these details were largely overlooked and she ended up dealing with emotional issues seven years post adoption. Her daughter has been asking a lot of questions and admitted to feeling sad about not knowing her biological mother. While Sharon now understands that this is a natural response for an adopted child, she wishes she was better prepared for it and urges prospective parents to do their homework first.
Be ready to answer any questions your adopted children may have
Sharon’s youngest adopted daughter often wonders why she can’t also draw a picture of her biological mom or receive a voice note as her adopted sister can. While it is expected that adoptees will be curious about their past, Sharon fears that this will result in more emotional baggage for her daughter. She believes it’s important to be honest with one another and that parents be ready to answer any questions with compassion. “Because she is a younger sibling, she has also grasped the concept of her adoption a lot faster than her older sister, because they talk about it with us and with each other, and we’re dealing with a fair amount of placement grief on her part too,” Sharon said.
We hope that Sharon’s story will inspire prospective parents to open their hearts and homes to children in need, and that Sharon’s life lessons will help others overcome the challenges of the adoption process in South Africa. Remember, when your family grows, so do your financial responsibilities; therefore the responsibility is on you to prepare a backup plan, such as Life Insurance, to ensure that your children are taken care of should you suddenly be unable to support them.
*Hippo Comparative Services (Pty) Ltd is an authorised financial services provider.