A family shares with us just what it means to consider adopting a child with the HIV virus.
This summer we traveled to Colombia, South Africa and Uganda to explore opportunities to expand our reach to help more children. Visiting these countries and meeting with their child welfare representatives solidified our resolve to find adoptive homes for children there. During our trips, we witnessed the love and care these children receive but also were acutely aware of the staff making do with what little resources they had. In each country we clearly observed the changing face of adoption and saw the many school-aged children, sibling groups and children with special needs who are waiting for a family of their own. Because we feel that that every child deserves a home, championing the adoption of these children is part of what Spence-Chapin does. Our time in Colombia was inspiring, encouraging and sobering. Having met with the Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF – The Colombian Institute of Family Welfare within the Ministry of Social Protection), our staff was impressed by the level of care provided to the approximately 9,000 children in their custody. In each adoption house visited, we encountered psychologists, social workers and other professional staff helping children prepare for adoption, and yet no forever families were on the horizon for these children.
In South Africa there is no question about the number of children needing permanency; by 2015 there will be more than 5.5 million orphans in South Africa. As one of just two U.S. agencies approved by the South African Central Authority to place children with American families, we are delighted to partner in this initiative with Johannesburg Child Welfare Society (JCW). Our similar mission and history of having worked together on our Granny program, make this partnership a natural fit. We have officially launched this program and are eagerly accepting applications for adoption. We are excited about placing children with black families as well as families who will open their hearts and homes to the children most likely not to be adopted in South Africa because of their age or medical needs.
In Uganda, we learned about the millions of orphans and their extremely limited options. When parents die some children are taken in by relatives but many others try to survive on the streets. While there, we established a strong relationship with MIFUMI, a Ugandan international aid and development agency. MIFUMI is opening doors for us to explore child welfare and adoption needs in Uganda, and while program development can take some time, we are already looking at opportunities for James, a 5-year-old boy who does not have family to care for him, who does not have a local children’s home to care for him, and with no other option, is living in a domestic violence shelter among women and children experiencing repeated trauma. We see James and the difficult situations he has already had in his short life, and we are moved to create something better for him and the millions of other children in situations like his.
In the past year, we’ve talked much about the changing face of adoption, but what we know has not changed is the number of children, particularly older children, sibling sets, and children with special needs, waiting to be adopted. Spence-Chapin has refocused efforts to help all families afford adoption by offering Adoptionships and specialized pre-adoptive parent preparation and training that will enable families to feel more confident about opening their homes to these children. It is with your ongoing commitment and needed support that we move forward with passion and dedication as we refine our vision and enhance our services to these resilient children and their adoptive forever families.
Visit our Flickr page to see pictures from this trip.
Read more about Waiting Children on our site.
First in a series highlighting our new adoption program in South Africa.
Spence-Chapin is excited to announce our newest international adoption program in South Africa. We’re able to offer this wonderful program in partnership with Johannesburg Child Welfare (JCW), an organization that has been at the forefront of providing direct services to children and families since 1909.
South Africa is one of the most diverse and multicultural countries in the world. In addition to the country’s indigenous black majority, colonialism and immigration have led to the largest communities of Asian, European, and racially mixed ancestry on the African continent. South Africa is home to 11 official languages, with English and Afrikaans being the most widely used. Families and children face a host of social and economic challenges in South Africa, a nation with a long history of poverty and inequality, and while access to anti-retroviral treatment has increased in recent years, HIV/AIDs remains a prominent health concern in the country.
Children in Need of Homes
Both boys and girls are available for adoption in this program, as well as sibling groups, with the youngest children being 18 months to 2 years old at the time of referral. There are many preschoolers and school-aged children waiting for families as well.
Every country that participates in international adoption creates their own eligibility criteria for families, and Spence-Chapin upholds all requirements as outlined by the South African authorities. Married heterosexual couples and single women must submit their dossier to South Africa prior to their 48th birthday. Couples must be married at least three years. Medical, legal, and mental health issues must be assessed prior to beginning the adoption process. South Africa is particularly interested in matching children with black families and those interested in adopting children who have historically been harder to place, such as sibling groups, school-aged children, and children who have the HIV virus.
Timing and Travel
It is expected that families will wait up to 1.5 years for a referral of a child after their application is submitted. Following acceptance of referral from the South African Central Authority, families will be eligible to travel to South Africa to complete their adoption after filing appropriate paperwork with U.S. immigration.
Families will spend 2 weeks fully escorted in South Africa, where they will have ongoing contact with social work staff from JCW, and will have access to cultural excursions. Families will stay at a comfortable and family friendly hotel for the duration of their trip.
Adoption will be considered full and final under South African law and children will be granted full U.S. citizenship upon arrival and after homecoming, families will complete post-placement evaluations
Families Outside of the NY/NJ metro area
We will gladly work with families outside the NY/NJ area through our networking partners.
There are several categories of fees and expenses that adoptive families should anticipate when considering an international adoption. For an explanation of these, please refer to the Understanding Fees and Expenses page. Included in these fees is a separate country program fee which varies. For South Africa it is $4,800. The program fee includes the professional services provided by Johannesburg Child Welfare as well as a donation to support ongoing services to birth parents and children.
The connection between Spence-Chapin and JCW was forged in 2003 and has deepened in the years since, thanks to a strong shared commitment to permanency for children. In April 2011, Spence-Chapin was delighted to open our first Granny Program in Africa at JCW’s Othandweni Family Care Center in Soweto. Our Granny Program is an outstanding humanitarian aid initiative that gives institutionalized children the opportunity to form important healthy attachments with a trusted adult. Due to our effective partnership and JCW’s strong oversight, 20 children are reaping the emotional and developmental benefits of having a granny.
Spence-Chapin has been chosen by the South African Ministry of Social Development’s Central Authority to facilitate adoptions from South Africa to the United States.