Couples may become foster parents either through adoption or getting involved in the foster care space. The reasons for choosing either route vary greatly among couples, according to foster parent and psychologist Nakitah Leigh Geemooi.
Geemooi said there is an “incredibly high” prevalence of children needing foster care. Research suggests that between 3.7 million and 5.2 million children in South Africa are dependent on foster care.
Adoption costs in South Africa average between R12 000 and R15 000. Apart from the financial cost, foster parenting also comes with a number of responsibilities. Either option could be pursued for numerous different reasons.
The case for being a foster parent
Reasons for adoption range widely, from infertility to precaution against passing down genetic disorders. Others may choose the adoption route to better suit their lifestyles, such as not wanting to deal with nappy-changing and the stresses of dealing with newborns.
“Some couples just can’t biologically have a child and some women are facing medical conditions that might make it very dangerous to carry a pregnancy,” she said, adding that “some women might not want to pass down genetic disorders or diseases that they are explicitly aware of.”
Foster parenting also expands the variety of options available to prospective parents, she said.
“When you’re adopting, you’ve got more options,” she said. “You could choose the gender or the sex of your child, you could choose how old or which developmental phase you’re choosing to take a child in so you could – if you didn’t want the hassles of bottles and nappies – skip that and choose to adopt an older child.”
There are several other reasons why adoption and foster care might appeal to some. As Geemooi explained, this could be religious reasons, balancing population growth or a desire to introduce ethnic diversity into a family.
Adoption vs. foster care
Although often used interchangeably, ‘foster care’ and ‘adoption’ differ slightly. The former is defined as temporary care while the latter is a more permanent, long-term solution.
“Both of them do have some legal processes involved in them. The fundamental difference is the permanency as well as the extent of rights in decision making that you have,” said Geemooi.
She explained that foster care rights are granted on a more urgent basis, often in cases where children were sexually or psychologically abused. Prospective parents are able to admit a child into their care via due legal processes and verification.
“Then you’ve got adoption, which is a lot more permanent. It’s a longer term
solution where you would then apply to the courts to have that child, in very simple terms, as your own,” she said.
“You would then be given full rights and some powers to act in the best interest of the child without having to consult their biological [parents] or even anyone who
would have been a next of kin in their biological family.”