Orphanages around the world have one thing in common: beautiful children who deserve a loving family to call their own. While this theme is consistent, there are numerous differences that set them apart. As the Coordinator of Program Development at Spence-Chapin, it is my responsibility to establish adoption programs that will be successful. Success, in this context, is defined as identifying countries where there are children in need of families and confirming that the country has systems in place to process adoptions in a transparent and ethical manner. South Africa meets these criteria perfectly.
So what makes South Africa different? Having placed children with families from Belgium and Finland for many years, Johannesburg Child Welfare Society (JCW) is experienced in international adoptions and has formalized procedures in place. They are involved in all phases of the adoption process from monitoring the children in care to providing families with a cultural integration program while in South Africa. JCW is responsible for written reports on the children, assessment of families, and providing the Central Authority with recommendations for placement; the process that JCW has established is about as seamless as it gets.
The care of the children is another area where this program differentiates itself. JCW strives to provide an environment that caters to the overall development of the children in their care which includes their physical, emotional, spiritual, and educational needs. While many orphanages around the world struggle to meet the basic needs of the children in their care, the orphanages we visited in South Africa were able to go above and beyond. Understanding the critical impact that physical and emotional contact has during a child’s early stages of development, in 2011 Spence-Chapin established its first Granny Program in Africa at the Othendweni Family Care Center, an orphanage in Soweto that is home to 90 children—30 of whom range in age from just a few days old to four years. Through this program, children are paired with experienced women in these communities, who spend special, one-on-one time with each of them. During our visit in July 2012 we witnessed the commitment of the staff and Grannies, and the genuine concern for the children. Additionally, JCW has contracted with outside organizations including The Big Shoes Foundation and Thusanani Children’s Foundation who provide medical and developmental services. JCW provides the children in their care with a solid foundation which inevitably makes the transition into their forever family that much smoother.
In short, when examining international adoption options, need and infrastructure often do not go hand in hand. However, South Africa proves that it can be done and as a result children receive the critical love and care they need until they join their forever family.
—Gina Pariani, Spence-Chapin