I remember when we were busy with our adoption application, one of the questions we asked was “when and how should we tell our child he is adopted?”

The first thing our social worker told us was that it is vital that your child knows right from the start about the adoption. If it is kept a secret and told later on, the child may assume that if it was a secret, it must be a bad or shameful thing. She told us to use the word ADOPTION freely in happy conversations. Not to make a big deal out of it, but make sure that it is “out there”.

We were advised to not force the topic but to answer questions honestly in an age-appropriate way. Kids will ask many questions but they often don’t listen to the answer. They process information at their own pace and when they need more information, they will ask.

Since our son was born, we have spoken openly to our friends in front of him about adoption. One day, I said to him “you are so special to me” and he said “yes I know. Because I was adocted (sic) hey mom?” It was the sweetest thing ever.

As he has got older, he has asked me a few questions about adoption but never with any huge interest or emotion.

My son is almost 7 now and we have lots of friends with adopted kids and through my counselling work, I meet lots of adoptive parents. I always love hearing the stories people tell their kids so I thought I would share a few.

These are some of the sweet stories I have heard.

• Mommies have hooks in their tummies where they hang their babies. My hooks are broken so another lady hung you on her hooks until you grew into a big enough baby and then she gave you back to me.

• We knew we wanted you so badly that we chose you. We asked a lady who knew lots of babies to look for you and we told her exactly what you would be like. She went and searched all over for you and when she found you, she called us and said we could take you home with us.

• Most babies are born from their mom’s tummies but you are special because you were born from my heart.

• Mommy and daddy could not have a baby of their own because they have a problem that the doctor could not fix. We adopted you because your tummy mummy could not look after you and she was so kind and loved you so much that she trusted us to look after you and make you our son / daughter.

There are lots of books that explain adoption to small children. The one I wrote is called The Greatest Gift and it is about on animals rather than humans. I chose animals because they can represent any type of human. All ages, all colours, all sexual persuasions etc. It is a story that can be used by all adoptive families and interpreted as their story. There are other books that we have in the house like: 1) The Day we Met you

2) Tell me again about the night I was born

3) Over the Moon.

Whichever way you chose to do it, just make sure that you do it from the start if possible.

Family Hands

Why is adoption so difficult?

Posted by Terri Lailvaux on September 29, 2011
Category : Adoption

By: Tracy Blues

The Minster of Social Development, Zola Skweyiya, recently called for more South Africans to adopt. He said there are 1,5 million orphaned children and not enough South Africans are adopting (adoption figures have declined from 2323 in 2005/6 to 1913 in 2007/8), so “We encourage South African families to adopt children and provide them with permanent families and love.” So why haven’t South African families heeded the Minister’s call and done their civic duty of adopting?

It’s because adoption is not an act of charity. Adoption is not like sponsoring a brick or even an entire new home. Adoption is a lifetime commitment to love and care for a child. It is not something to be done out of a sense of social responsibility. I didn’t adopt because I’m a good citizen. I adopted because I want a family.

Most families who want to adopt, want to adopt babies rather than older children. The adoption services deal mainly with babies and there are not enough human resources to allow co-operation with children’s homes to try to place the older children living there with permanent families.

People think the adoption screening process is difficult because it is intense and rigorous. It should be. There is no greater responsibility than to parent a child. You must be very sure about taking this huge, irreversible step and the social workers must be very sure you are a fit and suitable parent who can be “entrusted with full parental responsibilities and rights”.

If that means taking medicals, undergoing training, being interviewed, having your home inspected, getting referees to vouch for you and turning a searchlight on your deepest darkest doubts – that’s fine. In fact another step has been added: police clearance to check you don’t have a criminal record. In future, your fingerprints will also be checked against the new National Child Protection Register which lists all people unsuitable to be with children.

How the adoption system needs help
The main difficulty in adoption is the inefficient system. The Minister should channel his resources into providing the infrastructure to make the adoption system run smoothly. He can:
1. Train enough adoption social workers to provide adoption services in a standard way across the country and pay them properly.
2. Assign each social worker an investigator. So much valuable time is spent trying to trace the parents of abandoned babies, the fathers of children whose mothers want to make them available for adoption, (the consent of both biological parents is required) and the grandparents of the child if the parents are minors.
3. Fast track the establishment of the Register on Adoptable Children and Prospective Adoptive Parents (RACAP). At present each agency works in its own geographic region and there is little communication or co-operation between them.
4. Provide the technology so each social worker has her own computer, e-mail and internet connection and create an adoption website.
5. Inform and educate the South African public about adoption services.

As a parent who created my family through adoption, I don’t mind whatever hoops I have to leap through to be allowed to adopt. All I ask is that the social workers holding those hoops can have the resources to efficiently handle them uniformly throughout our country. Otherwise prospective parents end up entangled in red tape or flailing in mid-air in their attempts to adopt.

Do you believe the adoption system is efficient? Whose responsibility are the many parentless children?



Adoption in South Africa under the New Children’s Act
Authored by: Bertus Preller
Published: 2010/08/04
© 2010 Bertus Preller: Divorce Attorney
Part One: Adoption
In terms of Section 228 of the New Children’s Act 38 of 2005 a child is adopted if the child is placed in the permanent care of a person in terms of a court order that has the effects contemplated in Section 242 of the Act.
From the above it is clear that an adoption can only be legal if a court order has been made by a presiding officer of a Children’s Court. Thus, a legal adoption is an administrative function of the lower court and Judges of the High Court as upper guardians of children, does not have the such function. Once adopted it follows that full parental powers and guardianship flows to the adoptive parents.
Who may be adopted?
In terms of Section 230, any child may be adopted if:
(a) The adoption is in the best interests of the child;
(b) The child is adoptable;
(c) The provisions of the Act is complied with.
A social worker must also make an assessment to determine if a child may be adoptable.
When are children adoptable?
(a) When a child is an orphan and has no guardian or care-giver that is willing to adopt the child.
(b) When the whereabouts of the child’s parent or guardian cannot be established.
(c) When a child has been abandoned.
(d) When a child’s parent or guardian deliberately abused or neglected the child.
(e) Where a child is in need of a permanent alternative placement.
It is interesting to note that a child of 10 years or older must agree in writing to be adopted. Thus the feelings and personal opinion of the child needs to be taken into account.
Where a child is abandoned the norm is that a Social Worker will advertise the adoption in at least one local and national newspaper to attract any extended family members of the child. Although the aforementioned refers only to foster children this seems to be applied in all matter of abandonment.
Who may adopt a child?
Section 231 regulates who may adopt a child. A child may be adopted jointly by:
•a husband and wife;
•the partners in a permanent domestic life-partnership;
•other persons sharing a common household and forming a permanent family unit;
•by a widower, divorces or unmarried person or a widow;
•a married person whose spouse is the parent of the child or by a person whose permanent domestic life-partner is the parent of the child;
•by the biological father of a child born out of wedlock if the father did not already obtained rights under Section 21 of the Act;
•by the foster parent of the child.
It is to be noted that one spouse in a marriage may not adopt a child without the other spouse, except in a case where the one spouse is the natural parent of the child. The natural parent keeps all the parental rights and responsibilities and does not lose those rights when the other parent adopts the child, thus the spouses don’t adopt the child together.
It is also clear that homosexual, heterosexual and unmarried couples are also able to adopt a child. Also partners in a customary (polygamous) and Muslim customary marriage are entitled to adopt a child.
In circumstances where a child is adopted by a married person whose spouse is the parent of the of the child the mother will retain guardianship throughout the process. A Social Worker will only recommend such an adoption if the marital relationship is stable and has existed for a reasonable period. Where a mother is not the only guardian of the child the consent of the other parent will also be required. Also where exclusive guardianship was awarded to the mother the other parent’s consent will also be required. In terms of Section 236 of the Act, a parent can approach the Court to have his parental rights re-instated.

Taken from:  Law24



Taken from: Foschini Club Mag

Not all of us are able to have children of our own. Adoption is an option that gives you the opportunity to be a parent and can change the life of another human being for the better. By Cindy Tilney

It’s not usually the first choice for couples looking to have children – for many, it is a last resort after years of struggling with infertility and repeated attempts at very expensive medical procedures such as surrogacy and in vitro fertilisation (IVF). But couples who have gone the adoption route say it’s a powerful parenting experience that shouldn’t be overlooked as an option.

According to statistics released at the National Adoption Coalition Conference in March 2011, there are approximately 1.8 million children in South Africa waiting to be adopted. The red tape involved in the process, combined with staff shortages and the massive amount of unplanned pregnancies in the country, have created a situation in which many children are destined to languish in foster homes or orphanages for months and even years.

There are many misconceptions about this option, says Terri Lailvaux, an adoption consultant and author of The Greatest Gift. Almost anyone can adopt. Costs are factored on a sliding scale that make it possible for even low-income earners to apply, but the final selection rests on the choice of the birth mother, if she’s available. ‘Abandoning her child is the worst thing a mother can do because without her consent it’s almost impossible to get a child into the system.’

Nell and Wayne Liebenberg have two adopted children, Luca (10) and Leah (5).

Their story After years of trying to have children naturally, Nell and Wayne decided to consider IVF.

In the wake of six failed attempts, Nell finally fell pregnant on her seventh try, but miscarried at six weeks.

‘There’s enormous guilt if you are unable to give your partner a child of his own,’ she says. ‘It’s really a terrible feeling to live with.’ When the eighth round of IVF was again unsuccessful, Nell and Wayne put their names on the waiting list at a private adoption agency.

A few months after their application was approved, their social worker called to say that Luca’s mother had chosen them as his adoptive parents. Luca is now 10 and Leah is five, and Nell says the decision to adopt was the best she’s ever made.

‘I’d be lying if I said I never wonder what it would have been like to be pregnant, or what our biological children would have looked like. But the moment that child is put in your arms, they are yours and from then on, nothing is different.’

One of Nell’s concerns is that her children will think of themselves as ‘throwaways’ and wonder why they weren’t wanted by their biological parents. ‘But the truth is the kids that are given up for adoption are those whose mothers loved them beyond themselves, and chose to give them the best future in a loving home.

‘We have told our children in an age-appropriate way that they’re adopted. I’ve explained to both of them that they came from mommy’s heart and not her tummy. As they get older, the nature of their questions will change and we’ll have to find new ways to explain. There is no perfect answer and we don’t ever want to lie to them, because deception can be very damaging.’

Their message There’s one major difference between IVF and adoption: there are no guarantees with IVF, but you’re almost certain to have a child with adoption.

Leanne and Craig Aitken have a biological daughter, Gia (12), and an adopted son, Rio (5).

Their story Leanne was determined to have children, despite having undergone a liver transplant and her doctors being wary of the strain childbirth may put on her body. Regardless of these warnings, she became pregnant and their daugh-ter was born naturally and healthy, although the birth was a difficult one. The couple was set on having another child, but four years later, Leanne was unable to fall pregnant for the second time.

The Aitkens agreed to try surrogacy as their next step, but when that too was unsuccessful, they applied to a private adoption agency.

‘Craig and I wanted a three-month-old baby so that we didn’t risk having him taken away during the cooling-off period,’ says Leanne, referring to the legal window period during which birth parents may take a child back from adoptive parents. Currently, this is 60 days for the birth mother from the date the application is accepted and 90 days for the birth father.

The couple was amazed by the speed at which their application was processed: within a few weeks, their social worker contacted them with a child in mind. But when she sent through a photo of the baby, neither Leanne nor Craig felt any real connection to him, so they declined. The social worker then suggested Leanne visit a halfway house where babies who’d already been assigned to adoptive parents were being fostered until the end of the cooling-off period.

‘She thought it would be good for me to get a sense of what it was like to be around infants, but warned me not to get attached to any of the kids there as they’d been matched with families already.’

When she arrived at the house, Leanne was drawn to the smallest baby, a two-week-old boy. When the social worker called her a few days later to say that his prospective parents had changed their minds and he was available for adoption, the Aitkens jumped at the opportunity. ‘It was a bizarre coincidence. It is almost unheard of for adoptive parents to give up a child they’ve accepted and it almost never happens that you get to meet a baby before being given the opportunity to adopt them. And just three months later, it was
a done deal.’

Rio is now five years old and Leanne can’t imagine life without him. ‘In our family, there’s absolutely no distinction between him and Gia – we love them both equally and they’re amazing with each other.’

Leanne and Craig have told Rio that he’s adopted, but Leanne says it was incredibly tough to do. ‘I felt I didn’t want to tell him with every bone in my body, because he’s so much mine and so integral to our family. I would’ve loved to just protect him from feeling different and tell him “you’re one of ours”. The one thing I really dread is the possibility of him wanting to find his birth mother one day in case he feels rejected by her. He’s still very young and doesn’t quite grasp the concept of us being his adoptive parents’.

Their message ‘Many people put themselves through so much angst over infertility when the answer is right there in front of them. When you adopt, that child is yours – it’s an intense bond. Many people tell me what a lovely thing I’ve done, but I can’t claim to be one of the people saving the world. I wanted a baby just for me and for no other reason. Rio has done me a massive favour, and it’s definitely not the other way around,’ says Leanne.

Alex Nobl has an adopted son, Lisolethu (4).

Their story When Lisolethu was 18 months old, his mother left him at the home of a professional foster mother.

Liso’s foster mother didn’t think she could offer him much of a future and communicated this to some of her colleagues at the local non-profit organisation where she worked. They knew of Alex, who had just come out of a relationship at the age of 38 and was beginning to think about adoption.

‘Liso was one and a half by the time I met him, so I could already see his personality and we immediately connected. Over a weekend, I decided to adopt him,’ she says. From that point it took three months to complete the process with the help of a social worker and adoption lawyer, during which Liso spent an increasing amount of time at Alex’s house, eventually preferring to be there rather than with his foster mother.

‘When the adoption was complete and he came to live with me full-time, the first two weeks were a honey-moon period. Then reality kicked in and I realised that I’d given up my life as I knew it and I had quite a flip of emotions. At that age, a child is constantly attached to you. You’re always juggling between either holding him, feeding him or changing nappies!’

Her message Alex relied heavily on her family and friends for support, but after the first year motherhood became easier. ‘We have a great relationship. In a way, it’s liberating not having a biological child because
I don’t feel like I have to fit into the same entrenched ways of parenting as everyone else, and I never feel guilty about doing things differently.’

Club has legal professionals available to assist with any legal queries you may have, free of charge. Call 0861 424 789. Club members outside South Africa should dial +27 11 991 8330.

If you’re considering adoption and would like more info, contact adoptive mom, counsellor and author Terri Lailvaux on 083 325 6034 or visit her website, You could also go to the National Adoption website,


PARENT – Job Description

Posted by Terri Lailvaux on August 31, 2011
Category : Adoption


  • Mom, Mommy, Mama, Ma
  • Dad, Daddy, Papa, Pa


  • Long term, team players needed, for challenging, permanent work in an often chaotic environment.
  • Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts on call.
  • Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in far away cities!
  • Travel expenses not reimbursed.
  • Extensive courier duties also required.


  • The rest of your life.
  • Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily, until someone needs R100.00 or more.
  • Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly.
  • Also, must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 kmph in three seconds flat in case, this time, the screams from
  • the backyard are not someone just crying wolf.
  • Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippers.
  • Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects.
  • Must have ability to plan and organize social gatherings for clients of all ages and mental outlooks.
  • Must be a willing to be indispensable one minute, an embarrassment the next.
  • Must handle assembly and product safety testing of a half million cheap, plastic toys, and battery operated devices.
  • Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.
  • Must assume final, complete accountability for the quality of the end product.
  • Responsibilities also include floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the facility.


  • None.
  • Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you.


  • None required unfortunately.
  • On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.


  • Get this! You pay them!
  • Offering frequent raises and bonuses.
  • A balloon payment is due when they turn 18 because of the assumption that passing Matric will help them become financially independent.
  • When you die, you give them whatever is left.
  • The oddest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that you actually enjoy it and wish you could only do more.


  • While no health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options are offered; this job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth, unconditional love, and free hugs and kisses for life if you play your cards right.


Month 1 with my adopted premmie baby boy

Posted by Terri Lailvaux on August 30, 2011
Category : Adoption

Read my story on Parent24 about my first month with my premature adopted son.  It was the most terrifying and most amazing time of my life.






Have a look at the comments attached to this story on News24

I guess the answer to my earlier question is well and truly answered!!!  Judgement and lack of insight is alive and thriving in our little community called The World.  Here is the article that started it all – one which in my mind does not actually say anything but was written purely for reaction value.  Well if that’ the case, it sure did its job! Happy reading…………

This is by Hügo Krüger

“Let me first give my position with regards to gay men and woman on society. I have a problem with homosexuals advocating to be classified as a special gender – you’re not that special really. I have a problem with them wanting a “gay affirmative action”. I am not going to walk with my hand on the bladder with every single gay man or woman either. I treat them as any normal human being and judge them on their character not their sexual orientation, this is how I would like to be treated.

I am against any form of forced integration and forced segregation in our society. I believe in absolute freedom of choice, if there are people with deeply rooted cultural prejudices, then let them have it – since it is a waste of time trying to change them, for as long as they do not infringe on the dignity of anyone else while they are at it. It is a two-way sword; if they want their choice to be protected then so should those who choose to be gay, those who become gay or those who are born gay.

So on Facebook someone asked two questions that our society has struggled with for quite some time. 1. Should gay people be allowed to marry? and 2. Should gay people adopt children?

Now this first one is a very interesting debate, mainly because, how do you define marriage? Do we quite frankly even need legislation to say what marriage is and what it is not? Let me ask this question, a couple who has lived together for seven years, never plans on getting married, but plans on staying together for the rest of their lives. Is this “marriage”? Arguably I can say it is the exact same thing.

Quite frankly marriage nowadays is very difficult to define. Just look at our president for an example of a very complicated marriage. In principle I have no problem if he has seven wives, however I have a problem with the taxpayers paying for all his children, him using the barrier of culture to hide behind it in order to avoid all criticism and naturally the fact that it isn’t doing the HIV and Aids debate of the country any good.

Back to the gay debate, however. Firstly I do not believe that our country should even have legislation in place to define marriage, sure a few lawyers will go out of business, but if a couple wants to get married the traditional way, go through the conventional ceremonial way, why should the law also be there?

If two homosexuals lives together and call it whatever they want to, then how am I really going to know whether it is marriage or not? Furthermore what does it matter if I have a prejudice against them, it’s not really going to stop them from living together and to add to that, how they spend their private affairs is absolutely none of my business.

The second point is a tough one: May gays adopt children or not? Well the first argument to my mind is what makes a good parent? To me it requires a community to raise a child. My mother for example would never have been able to raise me without the help of the schools, the neighbours, the churches and the what not, all of these structures played an integral part in the Afrikaner culture that I came from and I’m sure in other cultures it has been no different. Obviously she and my father contributed a hell of a lot on their own by simply doing what parents should do – being there for their children.

However this is the part where I struggle a bit, can two homosexual men or woman fill the role of a mother and father in society? Well the first counterargument would be single moms and dads that manage to raise their children, a lot of people grow up this way and turn out just fine, this obviously isn’t easy for the single parent, but it is achievable? I’m still not one 100% clear on this matter.

You also do find heterosexual couples that abuse their children and many parents who shouldn’t even be parents. I’m sure that I will be able to find a better candidate for providing to a child in the gay community. It is not as if we are living in the 1950s anymore. I would most definitely prefer being raised by a gay couple than by a couple who abuses their children or who abuses alcohol. Also I don’t believe a child will turn out gay in those areas, maybe he might be a bit bullied at school, but children are bullied for other differences as well. Bullying isn’t really a good argument in this regard.

My conclusion on the second point is that I am unsure; I do concede that gays are normal people living in our society. Their rights are protected by our constitution; their sexuality has absolutely no influence on my life whatsoever. However, this is where I am stuck, can they become good parents?

To my mind if I really had to choose, I would give them the go ahead on adopting children as we already have so many children without a proper home in South Africa. I am also convinced that the overwhelming majority of them will try and provide as much as possible for that child.

I would like to hear your views on this matter.”

A5 English

Recommended adoption book

Posted by Terri Lailvaux on August 21, 2011
Category : Adoption

The Greatest Gift. Written by adoptive mom, Terri Lailvaux, this children’s story book explains how and why adoption takes place. It is aimed at adopted and biological children aged 2 to 7 years. The illustrations depict different coloured animals which allows the reader to translate the story into any multi-racial or other variation of family. The book is available immediately in English and Afrikaans as well as Xhosa, French, German & Italian (On demand). It is available at R 150 directly from Adoptmom

  Taken from Gift ov Life


Support for adoptive parents by Jenny Perkel

Posted by Terri Lailvaux on August 21, 2011
Category : Adoption
This life can be very hard when we try to walk its path alone and being a parent is so much easier when you are able to share the experience with other parents. That’s partly why I’m such a fan of ante-natal classes, mother-baby groups, and other ways in which parents are able to connect and share the highs and the lows of parenting with one another. Like their parents, children also need one another and they should not live alone in a world without other kids.

Whilst adoptive parents experience the usual challenges of parenthood, they are also faced with additional complexities around adoption itself, such as…

What to tell your child about being adopted?

How and when to tell her?

How to handle the hurtful responses of other people?

What information to give your adoptive child about her biological parents?

How to handle it if she wants to meet her biological mother?

How does being adopted affect a child emotionally?

These are some examples of the kinds of questions you might have as an adoptive parent.

Terri Lailvaux is an adoptive mom and the author of a children’s book about adoption called The Greatest Gift, also available in Afrikaans, Xhosa, German, Italian and French. Terri is a qualified counsellor who runs discussion groups and counselling for adoptive parents and people who may be interested in adoption. Terri’s passion is driven by her knowledge that adoption can be a very lonely and terrifying experience. Her aim is to open herself and her connections up and reach out to people who feel alone and don’t know where to turn. She is well equipped to answer some of your questions about adoption and to offer guidance and support when you need it.

If you are thinking of adopting a child or if you are an adoptive parent, don’t try to do it alone. You and your child may benefit from making contact with Terri, and also from being connected with other adoptive families. Mutual support, sharing and basic human connectedness really helps when it comes to the survival of parenthood.

This was taken from Jenny’s website


I have just written an article for Alice Magazine about gay couples who adopt children.  It will be published in the September or October issue so keep an eye out for it.  When doing my research for the article, I was saddened to find that the biggest hurdle was certain social workers judgement.  Many couples reported that the first enquiries they made regarding gay adoption were completely shot down as a result of them being in a same-sex partnership.  The other HUGE theme that came through was members of the public feeling that they have a right to ask very insensitive questions about the multi racial family in front of small children.  Come one people….surely we are past all this stuff now?  There must be bigger things to complain about than gay adoption?

See the article in the Oct 2011 issue.

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