Adoption Matters Amendment Bill: briefing

Social Development

28 July 1998
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Meeting report

WELFARE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

WELFARE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
29 July 1998
ADOPTION MATTERS AMENDMENT BILL [B80-98]: BRIEFING

Document handed out:
Adoption Matters Amendment Bill [B80-98]
(access from http://www.polity.org.za/govdocs/bills/1998)

GENERAL COMMENTS
Adv Masutha, a departmental law advisor, briefed the committee on this Bill. Legislation is required in terms of the constitutional court ruling in the Fraser case. Further the amendment of the Child Care Act needs to be effected before 5 February 1999 and must come into operation before then.

DETAILED MINUTES
Section 1 of B80-98 amends the Child Care Act's definition of "accredited social worker". Firstly, because the accreditation of social workers is very important in adoption processes, the definition of "accredited social worker" has been redefined. It now includes the fact that social workers must comply with the necessary conditions in order to practise in the specialised field of adoption, which was earlier overlooked. Also, it was emphasized that a mere passing of an exam would not be sufficient to allow a registered social worker to register for such a speciality.

Section 2 of B80-98 amends section 8(a) of the Child Care Act to enable a speedier procedure for granting legal representation of children. If the Children's Court makes an order for legal representation, the Legal Aid Officer which must be found at all Magistrates Courts, can appoint a legal practitioner. Then the Children's Court and not the Legal Aid Board, shall hold an enquiry to establish the financial status of the child. After the enquiry, the Children’s Court may require the recovery of costs from the relevant parties, ie parents/guardian of the child.

The balance of the Bill deals with amendments to the Natural Fathers of Children Born Out of Wedlock Act and to the Birth and Death’s Registration Act in order to adhere to the requirements of "Notice of consent to adoption" which is new in the Child Care Act. Consent for adoption is the first step to adoption and must usually be given by both parents or by the mother (in the case of a child born out of wedlock). With regard to a child born out of wedlock, if the father wants to amend the registration of the child’s birth so as to acknowledge himself to be the father and thus allow the father the right to give consent for adoption, he may do so through the High Court if no permission is granted by the mother for a birth registration change.

In the case of a dispute the Court can order blood tests. If a man refuses to take blood tests then it will be assumed that he is not the father and adoption proceedings will take place without his consent. If a father does not respond to an invitation to join in the proceedings of adoption he will be disregarded.

Questions by committee members:
Why is the father not allowed to approach a magistrates court but only a High Court? Would it not be much cheaper?
Response by Adv Masutha: Due to the status of such an issue, the magistrates court does not have jurisdiction and cannot deal with such a complex issue.

M Turok (ANC): Has Home Affairs been consulted about the issue of amending registration of the child by the father without the consent of the mother?
Response by Adv Masutha: Yes, they felt that it would be unconstitutional to tamper with the Birth and Death’s Registration Act and an amendment was therefore made.

Ms Turok commented that there may be problems regarding the definition of natural father with future challeges in the Constitional Court.
Response by Adv Masutha: The definition was formulated in Cabinet.

The committee discussed holding public hearings, as opposed to written submissions, and they decided that interested organisations and the media would be informed of a potential half-day public hearing

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