Your South African Adoption Starts Here.

Spence-Chain has over 100 years of adoption experience and the longest history of facilitating intercountry adoptions into the United States from South Africa. We have been placing children from South Africa into adoptive families since 2013 and in that time have facilitated over 40 adoptions. Spence-Chapin’s South Africa adoption program is open to adoptive families living throughout the United States.

 

Since the inception of our South Africa Program, we have partnered with to facilitate adoptions from South Africa. JCW is a non-profit organization which has been serving children and families in South Africa since 1909. We are proud to partner with  JCW and support them in their work on behalf of children.

 

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SAFEGUARDS AND ETHICAL PRACTICES

South Africa and the United States are both party to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. This ensures that safeguards are in place throughout every step of the adoption process to ensure that ethical, transparent practices are followed and the best interest of children are preserved. Spence-Chapin is Hague-accredited and has maintained that certification since the onset of such accreditation process. Our partner, JCW, is accredited by the South African Central Authority and earned this designation due to its strict adherence to legal and ethical practice.

CHILDREN IN NEED OF ADOPTION

  • Ages: Spence-Chapin’s South Africa program places children ages 1 to 9 years old at the time of referral. Adoptive families can specify a narrower age range within those parameters.
  • Sex: Boy and girls are equally represented within the protective care system in South Africa; therefore, families adopting from South Africa must be open to adopting a child of either sex in order to ensure that all children have equal opportunity for permanency.
  • Race/Ethnicity: Families adopting from South Africa must be open to parenting a child of any race or ethnicity. However, the vast majority of children awaiting adoption in South Africa are Black, Zulu, Xhosa, or biracial.
  • Sibling groups: Sibling groups are very rarely available for adoption in South Africa. This is due to the typical ways by which children enter the adoption system. The most common reasons that children enter protective care are either parental abandonment at the hospital following birth, or a voluntary surrender of parental rights which is typically executed soon after a child’s birth.
  • Special Characteristics: All children placed through this program have special needs. Although adoptive families do not need to be open to all of the following characteristics, the following conditions are the most common needs of children awaiting adoption from South Africa: global developmental delay, prematurity, HIV, HIV-exposure, Hepatitis B, syphilis. Children receive comprehensive medical treatment while in protective care.
  • Living Environments: Foster care is not readily available in South Africa. Therefore, the vast majority of children who are placed for adoption are living in group-care settings within a children’s home or institution before placement.

ADOPTIVE PARENT ELIGIBILITY​

  • Marital Status: South Africa welcomes married couples, single men, single women, and domestic partners to adopt. Unmarried couples who reside together are eligible, but please speak with our team to discuss the further considerations for such families. If an applicant has been divorced 3 or more times, we will prescreen your case with our partners in South Africa before proceeding.
  • Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: LGBTQ+ adoptive parents are welcomed to adopt through Spence-Chapin’s South Africa adoption program.
  • Age: Applicants 25-48 years old are welcomed to apply; applicants over age 48 should consult with Spence-Chapin before applying so we can pre-screen your case with our partners in South Africa.
  • Family Composition: Families who are already parenting as well as families who are not yet parenting are welcomed to apply. If you are already parenting 5 or more children, please consult with Spence-Chapin before applying so we can pre-screen your case with our partners in South Africa.
  • Medical History: Many successful adoptive parents have medical diagnoses. If you have a medical diagnosis and/or are prescribed medication, a letter from your doctor will be required with your application indicating whether the condition is expected to impact your parenting ability or life expectancy.
  • Mental Health Diagnoses: In the U.S., accessing therapy is widely accepted and normalized and many individuals receive a formal diagnosis during the course of their treatment. South Africa has a different culture of mental health treatment and diagnoses; mental health diagnoses in South Africa are given predominantly in instances in which a person’s mental health is impeding their ability to function. Because of this, adopting from South Africa is not presently an option for a single person with a mental health diagnosis, or a couple where both members of a couple have a mental health diagnosis.
  • Citizenship: For all international adoption processes into the U.S., at least one adoptive applicant (or the sole applicant) must hold U.S. citizenship; this is a requirement imposed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services because your adopted child will automatically become a U.S. citizen upon arrival to the U.S. by virtue of being the legally adopted child of a U.S. citizen.

WHAT ARE THE STEPS FOR ADOPTING FROM SOUTH AFRICA?

1. Apply

You can complete our FREE application and listen to the South Africa program webinar here.

2. Home Study and Training

All families must undergo a home study which is designed to prepare you for adoptive parenthood and assess your ability to parent an adopted child. For families living in New York and New Jersey (within 100 miles of our Manhattan office), Spence-Chapin will complete your home study. For families living outside of that area, you will work with a local agency on your home study and Spence-Chapin will guide that agency to ensure that the home study they prepare meets all of the requirements of South Africa. The home study includes paperwork, clearances, interviews with a social worker, and a home visit.

For all families, Spence-Chapin will provide a pre-adoption training plan which will help you prepare for the unique considerations of adoptive parenthood. Our social workers facilitate trainings on trauma, attachment, bonding, transracial parenting, how to talk to your child about adoption, and more.

3. USCIS and Dossier

After your home study is complete, we will guide you in filing your application with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). All international adoptions are processed through USCIS and therefore in all international adoptions a family’s pre-approval with USCIS after home study is necessary before a family can receive a referral.

Once you have been approved by USCIS, Spence-Chapin will guide you in obtaining all documents required to be submitted to South Africa as part of your “dossier.” Spence-Chapin submits your dossier to Johannesburg Child Welfare and once your dossier is submitted, your officially eligible to receive a referral!

4. Wait Time

The typical wait time to receive a referral is approximately 24 months after submission of your dossier. Families who have a greater openness to more significant special needs and/or age of child may wait shorter. Families who have a very narrow openness to special needs and age of child may wait longer. Our social workers are here to support you during the wait!

Please note, that depending on how long you wait for referral, you may need to complete a home study update and extend your USCIS approval – we will keep track of those timelines and guide you though the process should that be necessary.

5. Referral and Pre-Travel

Johannesburg Child Welfare issues referrals in consideration of what characteristics your family is open to. When we receive a referral for your family, we will share all information provided with you. A referral will contain photographs of the child, medical information on the child, details of the child’s legal process by which he/she became eligible for international adoption, and any known social information on the biological family. You are welcomed and encouraged to ask any questions you have about the child and information provided before making a decision on whether to accept the referral.

After you accept a referral, there will be further governmental approvals to obtain within South Africa and within the United States before you will travel to meet your child. Spence-Chapin and Johannesburg Child Welfare will ensure that all necessary approvals are obtained. Please anticipate several months between when you accept a referral and when you travel to meet your child.  During this time, we will prepare you for travel, meeting your child, and the transition to parenting him or her.

6. Travel

In order to complete the adoption process, adoptive parents must take one trip to South Africa. The trip length is anticipated as approximately 5-10 weeks. Your child will be placed into your custody soon after your arrival to South Africa and you will begin caring for your child 24/7. One week after you have taken custody of your child, you will finalize your adoption in a court in South Africa, accompanied by a JCW social worker.

After your adoption has been finalized, JCW will walk with you through every step of obtaining your child’s passport and visa. Once you have obtained your child’s visa, you will be ready to fly home with your child!

Throughout your whole time in South Africa, Spence-Chapin and JCW social workers are available to you around the clock. A JCW social worker will accompany you to all appointments and make scheduled visits to your family to check-in and offer support.

7. Post-Adoption Visits

Within the first 2-4 weeks of your arrival home, a post-adoption home visit will be scheduled by your social worker; this is designed to support your family during this significant transition.  Additional post-adoption visits will be conducted at 6 months, 12 months, 24 months, 3 years, 4 years, and 5 years post-adoption. These visits are required by the South African Central Authority.

FEES

Did you know that the Adoption Tax Credit is available to families adopting internationally? In 2020, the Adoption Tax Credit was up to $14,300 per child. This tremendously offsets the cost of adoption as most families are eligible.

Additionally, Spence-Chapin partners with the Adoption Finance Coach to provide our families with FREE access to experts, tools and content that can take the worry out of financing your adoption. Families who use Your Adoption Finance Coach typically raise $5,000-$15,000 for their adoptions.

Professional Service Fees to Spence-Chapin

Spence-Chapin charges professional services fees of $15,500, payable in four installments. Please see below for the fee breakdown for local families (who live in New York or New Jersey within 100 miles of our Manhattan office) and for networking families (who live outside that service area).

Spence-Chapin issues refunds for services not rendered and will issue any refund within 60 days.

Fees are paid in the following categories:

 

Professional Services Fee Schedule for Local Families

Due

Amount

First Installment of Professional Services Fee

Due upon signing the Adoption Fee Agreement

$2,000*

Second Installment of Professional Services Fee

Due at the time of Spence-Chapin’s training series

$4,500

Third Installment of Professional Services Fee

Due upon dossier submission

$3,000

Fourth Installment of Professional Services Fee

Due upon acceptance of Referral

$6,000

 

*With the first installment of the professional services fees, families additionally submit $500 which is a pass-through fee; all intercountry adoptions are subject to a $500 Monitoring and Oversight fee by the International Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity, the body which oversees agency accreditation.

 

Professional Services Fee Schedule for Networking Families

Due

Amount

First Installment of Professional Services Fee

Due upon signing the Adoption Fee Agreement

$2,000*

Second Installment of Professional Services Fee

Due at the time of Spence-Chapin’s training series

$5,000

Third Installment of Professional Services Fee

Due upon dossier submission

$3,000

Fourth Installment of Professional Services Fee

Due upon acceptance of Referral

$5,500

 

*With the first installment of the professional services fees, families additionally submit $500 which is a pass-through fee; all intercountry adoptions are subject to a $500 Monitoring and Oversight fee by the International Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity, the body which oversees agency accreditation.

After you accept the referral of a child, you will be invoiced 54,106 Rand (approximately $4,000 USD depending on exchange rates) for Johannesburg Child Welfare’s program fee. This fee covers all of Johannesburg Child Welfare’s work on your case and your child’s case.

If you discontinue the adoption process after paying the South Africa Program Fee, refunds for services not rendered will be issued within 60 days.

  • Spence-Chapin directly provides the home study as well as any home study update/addendum for families living in New York and New Jersey (within 100 miles of our Manhattan office). Spence-Chapin charges $2,500 for the home study and provides all home study updates and addendums at no cost.
  • If you live outside of our service area, you will have your home study and any home study addendum/update performed by a licensed agency local to your home; you will pay your local agency directly for this service in accordance with their fee schedule, which we estimate between $2,050-$4,150 depending on the number of home study updates/addendums you require.
  • During your first five years after adoption, 7 post-adoption visits will be made to your family. Because Spence-Chapin believes in the value of post-adoption supports, we do not charge a separate fee for these visits for families in our service area. If you live outside of our service area, your local agency will charge a fee for these visits according to their fee schedule. We anticipate that non-local families will pay between $2,100-$3,850 to their local agency for these visits.
  •  

 

Item

Description

Fee

Accreditation Monitoring & Oversight Fee

All international adoptions into the U.S. are subject to this one-time fee payable to the International Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity (IAAME). This fee is due with your first fee installment to Spence-Chapin and is a pass-through fee which Spence-Chapin forwards to IAAME

$500

Parent Preparation & Training

Adoption Learning Partners Hague Package (5 training courses) and Tough Starts Matter Package (4 training courses) and additional training as assigned by Spence-Chapin or your local agency

$210-$750

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services: I-800A

Filing fee and biometrics fee for the I-800A filing

$775 plus $85 per applicant and adult household member

USCIS I-800A Supplement 3 Extension Paperwork

If you experience a change in your household or if you need to extend your I-800A approval, you will file a Supplement 3 with USCIS. USCIS grants one free extension via Supplement 3 form; any further Supplement 3 filing is charged by USCIS as $385 + $85 per applicant and adult household member

$0-$1,280

Consultations with Specialists

Consults with medical doctor for completion of child medical checklist as well as consultation with medical doctor and other relevant specialists when reviewing a referral

$300-$600

Immigration & Documentation subsequent to approval of the I-800 form

This fee includes document expenses including but not limited to the child’s visa, embassy medical appointment, TB testing and child vaccinations, child’s passport, adoption decree, amended birth certificate and identification

$800

Documentation Preparation, Processing and Certification

Paid to third parties when preparing dossier; this is the estimated cost a family will spend on notarizations, authentications and apostilles

$400

Travel Cost

All families will make a trip of approximately 5-10 weeks to South Africa for the adoption; travel expenses are paid directly by family to various vendors before and during travel, such as: airfare, hotel, food, and transportation. Costs for non-adoption tourism/activities not included in this estimate.

$8,000-$9,000

Our Commitment to the Children in Care

It is estimated that 2.5-5 million children in South Africa have been orphaned. Spence-Chapin is responding to this crisis through comprehensive services to children living in institutional care, and by providing for the concrete needs of vulnerable children in South Africa. Spence-Chapin has the following services in place to serve children in South Africa.

Spence-Chapin’s Granny Program, pairs children living in institutions with “Grannies” who provide them with daily, individualized attention and care.  Grannies are trained to meet the developmental needs of children deprived of consistent caregivers and provide the individual love and attention that all children deserve.  For four hours each day and five days a week, each Granny focuses on the specific physical, cognitive, and emotional needs of a child they are matched with through direct care, play and skill building exercises that address speech and language development, motor skills enhancement, and attachment. Spence-Chapin founded the Granny Program in South Africa in 2011 at Othandweni Children’s Home and has now brought the Granny Program to four institutions in South Africa, ensuring that all children living in those homes receive the dedicated care of a Granny.

Within four Children’s Homes, Spence-Chapin provides funding for every child to receive a birthday gift and birthday celebration. This means over 200 children each year who are living in institutional care are being recognized and celebrated on their special day. We love receiving photos of each birthday celebration and seeing each child’s face light up!

In 2020, Spence-Chapin secured funding for and oversaw large-scale renovation and refurbishment at Othandweni Children’s Home. Othandweni, which means “Place of Love,” houses 90 children between infancy and age 18. Children come to Othandweni while a permanency plan is made for them; some children will be safely reunified with their biological family, some children will be adopted domestically within South Africa, some children will be adopted internationally, and sadly some children will age-out into independent living. All of these children deserve a safe living environment. The renovations included:

  • Renovating all bathrooms with new plumbing, toilets, baths, and showers
  • Ensuring that there were proper safety measures such as a fire alarm control panel, a wireless evacuation system, and first aid kits and fire extinguishers throughout the home
  • Updating the kitchen by purchasing and installing five stoves, six microwaves, and outfitting the kitchen with sufficient pots, pans and cutlery sets
  • Installing an automatic gate at the entrance to ensure safety of the residents
  • Purchasing and installing new beds and mattresses for all of the children
  • Providing curtains for all windows throughout the home
Play is essential to children’s development and is how children explore their world, make connections, and build self-esteem. Unfortunately, in many institutional settings there is not sufficient or safe play space. Spence-Chapin has partnered with a playground engineer in Johannesburg to design and build safe indoor and outdoor play spaces at four Children’s Homes within the greater Johannesburg Region. The play spaces have been designed to promote children’s sense of imagination, strengthen problem-solving skills, and develop fine and gross motor skills. Children look to the caring adults in their lives to model appropriate play and to support them as they try new skills on the playground. Therefore, the four playgrounds and indoor play spaces have been built in the four institutions where Spence-Chapin’s Granny Program is operating. We have enjoyed hearing the laughter and seeing children discover new abilities with the support of their Grannies helping them on the equipment.

Spence-Chapin sends recuring care packages to ensure that children living in institutional care throughout the greater Johannesburg area have sufficient food, clothing, and hygiene products. As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, we continue to send personal protective equipment and sanitation supplies to the children’s homes.

Spence-Chapin believes that in order to care for the most vulnerable children, we must care for the communities in which they reside. Spence-Chapin has therefore provided funding for services to survivors of family violence within Johannesburg, funding for job skills training for community members and for family counseling centers for families facing crises in the community.

 

FAMILY
STORIES

Read stories about Spence-Chapin families adopting from South Africa on our blog.

The Granny
Program

Spence-Chapin’s South Africa Granny Program pairs children living in children’s homes in Johannesburg to caregivers from the local community that provide one-on-one care and attention to these children, improving their skills and helping them thrive.

South Africa
Adoption Resources

Explore special needs resources for an adoption from South Africa

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