What are the requirements for adoption in South Africa?

Adoption is the legal act of permanently placing a child with a parent or parents other than the child’s biological mother or father. An adoption order has the effect of terminating the parental rights of the biological mother and father, while transferring the parental rights and responsibilities to the adoptive parents. In terms of the adoption process in South Africa, it can get complex, long and quiet draining. It is not as simple as it seems and it is therefore always good to understand what the procedure and requirements are so that you, as the adoptive parents, can prepare for a time-consuming and occasional frustrating process, but also a very special heart-warming experience.

Before going into the process of adoption, it is important to know and acknowledge the requirements for adoption in South Africa. The requirements for adoption is regulated by the Children’s Act 38 of 2005. Such requirements will be discussed in simple terms below:

Who can be adopted in South Africa?

Any person younger than 18 years of age can be adopted whereby:

  • The child is an orphan and has no legal guardian;
  • The child’s mother or father cannot be allocated or established;
  • The child has been abandoned for more than three months;
  • The child has been abused and/or neglected by their parents or legal guardian;
  • The child has been declared adoptable

Who can adopt in South Africa?

In terms of who can adopt a child, the main requirement is that the person wanting to adopt must be older than 18 years of age. This includes:

  • Spouses, partners in a life-partnership (including same-sex partners), or other persons sharing and forming a permanent home;
  • a widower, widow, unmarried, or divorced person, this all includes single persons;
  • A person married to the parent of the child, for example, a stepparent;

A person cannot be prevented from adopting a child due to his/her financial status in terms of the Children’s Act. The main focus is that if a person wants to adopt a child, they need to be fit and proper, willing and able to exercise and maintain their full parental rights and responsibilities towards the child and they need to be properly assessed by an adoption social worker.


Contact or book a consultation with our adoption lawyers for more information, legal advice and guidance on all matters related to adoption in South Africa.