The portfolio committee on social development has been briefed on implications of the Children’s Amendment Bill in relation to adoption services.
The bill was tabled in parliament at the end of August 2020.
The bill’s explanatory summary was published in Government Gazette 43656 on 26 August 2020.
The social development department briefed the committee on the bill in October 2020.
According to the explanatory summary, the bill seeks to amend the Children’s Act of 2005 to address critical gaps and challenges in the underlying child care and protection system.
The bill also responds to a High Court order relating to foster care challenges and seeks to contribute to a comprehensive legislative system on foster care.
Cabinet approved the bill in February 2019 for tabling in parliament.
The cabinet statement declared that “all children should enjoy access to services that are aimed at facilitating their safety, care and protection; and an effective social welfare system”.
The bill aims to amend the Children’s Act, 2005, so as to:
• amend and insert certain definitions;
• provide for children’s right to privacy and protection of information;
• further provide for the rights of unmarried fathers;
• extend the children’s court jurisdiction;
• further provide for funding of early childhood development programmes;
• provide for the designation and functions for a Registrar of the National Child Protection Register;
• further provide for the care of abandoned or orphaned children and additional matters that may be regulated;
• further provide for rules relating to care and protection proceedings;
• further provide for medical testing of children in need of care and protection or adoption;
• provide for additional matters relating to children in alternative care;
• further provide for matters relating to adoption and inter-country adoption;
• further provide for the hearing of child abduction matters;
• further provide for matters relating to surrogate motherhood; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.
In May 2020, the committee called on cabinet to fast-track its process to approve the bill so that it could be tabled in parliament.
In a statement, the committee indicated that the finalisation of the bill is “critical as it ensures compliance to the North Gauteng High Court order deadline of the end of November 2020”.
During the earlier briefing, the social development department went through the bill on a clause-by-clause basis.
In a statement, the committee, while welcoming the way in which the bill is crafted and the structure of the briefing, expressed its concerns with the manner in which certain clauses, including a clause on the adoption processes, were explained.
The committee asked the department to come back with a much clearer explanation before it can proceed with processing the bill.
In the latest briefing, the department pointed out that the removal of adoption fees does not mean that the department is prohibiting social workers, lawyers, psychologists and other professionals from rendering adoption services in relation to the adoption of children.
The department added that the private sector may still render adoption services in the same way as in other areas in the Children’s Act where their services are required.
The department plans to use existing social workers providing child protection services to render adoption services.