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Our response to ethical dilemmas impacting the sustainability of Intercountry adoptions - a South African practice perspective

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Adoption is often described as being legally and ethically complex as it potentially involves the conflicting rights of parties to the adoption triad. What is more, adoption affects the involved parties for their whole lives. Different examples of potential adoption-unique ethical dilemmas will be raised, like the prevention of financial gain, prevention of solicitation, and inducement during the process of consent by birth families.

Other problem areas related to ethics that may arise in adoptions include issues regarding self-determination, the role of race and different cultural approaches, the lack of post-adoption support, competencies required of adoption social workers, and adoptions not forming part of an integrated approach to child protection.

In The Hague Convention and South African National Practice Guidelines, the emphasis is on the adoption practitioner's ability to render adoption services that are based on sound ethics to prevent inducement, exploitation, the sale and trafficking of children, and improper financial gain through adoptions. The adoption of children raises several human rights issues.

Therefore, the adoption process must be guided by the principle of identifying and acting in the child's best interest. Measures are needed in several areas to better protect children and their rights during adoption procedures. In looking at our response, key ethical standards for adoption social workers will be explored.


About Katinka Pieterse and Dr H Malan

Katinka Pieterse is the Executive Director of Abba Specialist Adoptions & Social Services, a designated child protection organization in South Africa. She has extensive practice experience in social work in child care and protection, and adoption. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree and a Masters of Social Work.

She has developed expertise in adoption service delivery, including program development, therapeutic services, governance, training and engagement, and advocacy in the following focus areas, namely, unplanned crisis pregnancies, birth parent adoption counseling, screening and preparation of adoptive applicants, adoptability assessment of children, and post-adoption support.

She has also co-developed a practice training program and short learning program for adoption practitioners. She is actively involved in the training of social workers in adoption nationally and is a guest lecturer at the University of the North West in South Africa.

She is one of the founding members of the National Adoption Coalition of South Africa and serves as the Chairperson of the coalition. She is actively involved in advocacy campaigns and lobbying to promote ethically sound and good adoption practices, raise awareness of adoptions, and promote collaboration within the sector.

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