Thinking of adopting or becoming a safety or foster parent in South Africa? Here are all the details you need to know

Janine and Dion Fabe, founders of Hannah's Place of Safety. Photo: Supplied/Janine Fabe

Janine and Dion Fabe, founders of Hannah's Place of Safety. Photo: Supplied/Janine Fabe

Published Apr 14, 2024


The safety of children in South Africa was highlighted again after the surge in children who are either missing or who have been murdered.

Tied with this, there are thousands of children who seek the love and protection every child so rightly deserves.

Many people want to open up their hearts and homes to these children who many times are either abandoned, abused, or taken away from their families due to safety reasons.

If you are one of those people and you wondered how to become either a safety parent, a foster parent, or how you can adopt, we have the answers.

By the end of March 2024, a total of 40,043 children were in the foster care system in the Western Cape alone.

The duration of foster placement for children with a person other than family can be for two years or more by order of the court, or until the child turns 18.

A foster placement is also dependent on the possibility of a child being reunited with family — where a child can be reunited with a biological parent or family if the circumstances are in the best interest of the child. There has to be no risk of physical, emotional, or psychological harm, or deliberate neglect for this to happen.

A Cape Town family has made it their mission to not allow children to be discarded, but, be there and take in the most vulnerable children.

Janine and Dion Fabe from Mitchells Plain founded the non-profit organisation called Hannah’s Place of Safety in 2016.

The organisation takes in babies who have either been abandoned, born from drug-addicted parents and alcohol users, and babies who have been removed from their families due to circumstances.

The organisation is named after their daughter Hannah, who the couple adopted.

Hannah was abandoned at birth. She was found under a motor bridge and placed at Christine Revell Children's home in Athlone, where Janine was a volunteer. Hannah had not even been given a name and was only temporarily placed at the children's home until another facility had space.

The children's home was having an outing and Hannah was too young to go. Janine took Hannah home for the weekend as she was also a screened host parent for the Christine Revell Children’s Home at the time.

As soon as she got to the Fabe household, Hannah melted all their hearts and that cemented her stay. Janine and Dion immediately did all they could to have Hannah stay with them.

“We fostered for two years. It took us another two years to complete the adoption. We are now a blended family of six,” Janine said.

“Hannah is an intelligent, fun-loving, well-adjusted young lady. She has a kind heart and a soft nature. She is a little bookworm as she loves to read. She is very active with the children placed in Hannah’s Place of Safety. Her heart’s desire is for every child to have the same story of love and victory as she does.”

Hannah turns 17-years-old next month.

“In foster care, it is the child who needs the home. In adoption, it is you who need a child. Depending on what you want. I am a strong advocate for foster care, as you are laying a foundation for a child in need, and if not given this opportunity he or she will probably grow up in a children’s home,” Janine said.

“We need to live more selflessly and open our hearts and homes to needy children. Foster Care is a selfless act but so rewarding and I know many families who are currently fostering children and feel the same way as me,” she said.

“If ever your foster child should be returned to its biological parent, you can stand back and say look at that. I made a difference and that child is then ready and strong for the next phase of his or her life,” said Janine.

“It's not easy, but, I always encourage foster parents to remain part of the child's life and incorporate the biological family to become one big family.”

Hannah’s Place of Safety has become a haven for many children and the Fabe family continues to share their love and support for children.

The organisation also sets out to support individuals in becoming foster parents.

What is a safety parent?

A safety parent is a fit and proper person, over the age of 18 years, who takes temporary care of no more than six children, except where the children are siblings. This care can last for up to 90 days. There are also emergency parents, who provide temporary safe care for between 24 to 48 hours.

How do you become a safety parent?

According to the Western Cape Department of Social Development (DSD), anyone interested in becoming a safety parent can visit their nearest offices or call 0800 220 250.

What process do I go through to become a safety parent?

Applicants are carefully screened by DSD social workers to determine suitability to care for children.

Once approved, the safety parent will receive training on the Children’s Act, the roles and responsibilities of safety parents, and how to care for vulnerable children who may have experienced trauma.

Once the placement of a child is finalised, safety parents are given an emergency kit (e.g. in the case of a baby, nappies, and formula milk) and a basic daily fee towards the child's care.

How do I become a foster parent?

Visit the nearest DSD offices or a designated child protection organisation.

What process do I go through to become a foster parent?

A social worker will arranged for you to be screened, this involves an interview and a visit to your home.

Factors considered during the screening process will include the health of the prospective foster parent, family composition, suitability of accommodation, general environment, and accessibility of schools and public transport.

Other aspects include the views of the prospective foster parent on education and child-rearing, ability to accept responsibility, motivation to foster, and their attitude towards the birth parents.

The prospective foster parent and all adults at the premises will go through a process of vetting and selection and afterwards compulsory training will be undertaken

What happens once a child is placed in my care?

Once a child has been placed with you, foster care supervision and monitoring services (home visits and contact) must be rendered by a designated social worker to ensure the child is functioning in a safe, and healthy environment with positive support; the goals of family reunification needs to be promoted; renewal of foster care placement every two years through a court order.

Procedure for Canalisation would further apply which is a social work administration function and entails the management of statutory cases.

What do I do if I want to adopt?

Adoption services are rendered by designated child protection organisations that can also be adoption agencies and are registered as adoption social workers by the South African Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP) to render this service and are designated by the provincial DSD and accredited by the national DSD to render National Adoptions.

According to the Children's Act, an advertisement must be placed to find out any information on the whereabouts of the biological parents or family.

The advertisement will run for 90 days in the newspaper in the area where the baby or child was found. If the family or parents are never found an adoptability report is written by a social worker and the Children's Court may find the child adoptable, and then the adoption process begins.

“The adoption process is complex, and thus we recommend those serious about applying to contact a designated child protection organisation – that can also be an adoption agency – or visit your nearest local DSD office for information,” Western Cape DSD said.

“We suggest you also contact an adoption agency like ABBA Adoptions, Wandisa Adoption Agency, NORSA, Cape Town Child Welfare, or Magdalena Huis for further information. Please note that most of our Designated child protection organisation are accredited and designated to render adoption services,” it said.

“For more information about adoption procedures, you can visit:”

A single person, male or female, can adopt.

What happens if I adopt and the child’s biological parents return and want their child back?

After the child has been adopted the Children's Court has two years to rescind the adoption from the date the child has been adopted. However, the adoption order will only be rescinded if the adoption process was not followed correctly.

Any persons interested in finding out more information about how to sign up to be a foster or safety parent can contact the Department of Social Development at 0800 220 250, to be directed to your nearest local DSD office.

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