Can a single woman adopt a child in South Africa?

In this article, we answer the following question: Can a single woman adopt a child in South Africa? We talk about the eligibility criteria for adoptions in South Africa, legal requirements and also about the difficulties of adopting as a single person.

Can a single woman adopt a child in South Africa?

Yes, a single woman or man can adopt a child in South Africa, as long as they have the consent of the Minister. In theory, the process should not be more difficult than married couples who want to adopt, but in practice, unfortunately, many single women and men who want to adopt have a very difficult time. 

Many adoption agencies and family attorneys believe that only married couples should be able to adopt, as they are the ideal choice. Single men and women are not seen as competent in raising a child on their own as married couples do. 

Competent bodies in South Africa

The Government Offices responsible for adoption in South Africa are as follows:

Commissioner of Child Welfare

Private Bag X61

Pretoria 0001, South Africa

Tel: 012-328-4026

Department of Social Development

Registrar of Adoptions

Private Bag X901

Pretoria 0001, South Africa

Tel: 012-312-7592

Fax: 012-312-7837

The Commission for the Protection of Minors is responsible for the Department of Justice and is required for international adoptions. The Department of Social Development is the Central Authority for all adoptions.

Residency requirements for adopting in South Africa

The law that governs adoption processes in South Africa is the Child Care Act 74 of 1983. If you are a foreign resident in the country, you must have resided in South Africa for five years and that may include the process of two years of investigation. 

South African authorities will approve the adoptions of citizens who have been resident in South Africa or some cases or if the husband/wife is South African. Sometimes it will take up to 2 years to complete the South African requirements for an adoption. 

Beyond that change, they will be based on the circumstances of each particular case, for example, family members will be given higher priority than non-members regardless of age.

If you are a resident abroad, the process would begin through a collaborating entity that meets the requirements established by the Hague Convention. 

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys in South Africa

Prospective adoptive parents should try to enlist the support of an accredited South African organization to facilitate this process. Unfortunately, there is no list of agencies available at this time. Many of these organizations are reliable and can be contacted directly. Intended parents are encouraged to thoroughly research all Adoption Agencies or Coordinator they plan to use for adoption service.

Important: There are no government fees for adoption services. Adoption Agencies and Social Organizations charge fees for services that may depend on the organization.

The Adoption Process in South Africa

The process begins by contacting an accredited Child Protection Organization. They are charged with identifying an exclusive orphanage for adoption. After conducting a family study, conducted by an accredited entity, the case is transferred to a Children’s Court for a final hearing. 

The adoption order culminates in the legal recognition of the rights and obligations existing between the child and the father. The adopted child is then considered by law to be the legitimate child of the adoptive parent(s). The adoption order gives the adopted child the surname of the new parent.

How a South African child can be offered for adoption

The consent of the child’s biological father, except in cases of rape or incest, may be obtained before the child is placed for adoption. Those parents who are not married have the right to request custody, but only the consent of the biological mother is required to offer the child for adoption. 

On the contrary, biological, married or divorced parents can refuse to allow their wives or ex-wives to give their children up for adoption.

Under current laws, the birth of an illegitimate child must normally be registered with the mother’s last name, and you can only take that of the father only if the father has recognized it on the birth record. The single mother has the right to decide what the names or first names of the child will be.

Documentation Required to Make an Adoption in South Africa

The documentation required to adopt varies in each case due to the different South African Adoption Orphanages. That is why we cannot provide a list of such requirements.

Tips for Single Parents Who Want to Adopt

Going through this process alone is not easy. When preparing prospective adoptive parents, adoptive parents and agencies stress the importance of having friends and a family who can support and assist them. 

All responsibilities will fall on your shoulders, such as: taking care of the child when he is sick, picking him up at his friends’ house, choosing the appropriate school or talking to the school counsellors. 

Having the support of a network you trust will ease some of these responsibilities and give you a respite from the constant role of parent. When approaching adoption agencies and other resources, you have to believe in yourself. 

The process may not be easy and some doors may be closed for you. But as one foster parent already said: “You have to believe that somewhere in the world there is a little one waiting for you.” Your determination and perseverance can make your dream come true.

The difficulties of adopting as a single parent

For years, people without a partner have followed the process required for national adoption and, unlike couples who have had to wait between seven and ten years to start a family, about 90 per cent of these people are still waiting and so on. They have only received a letter in response thanking them for their offer.

Fostering a minor is not easy either, couples are always ahead, although in recent years it is almost the only hope, and at most, they could opt for a minor with problems, even though in today’s society, singleness is considered as an irrelevant differential fact, and therefore, there should be no discrimination concerning couples in the formation of a family.

International adoption for single parents

Most people without a partner resort to international adoption, but it is not easier. As a single-parent family, adopting is always much more difficult and complicated. “Couples will always have priority”, is the phrase that a person who wants to adopt as a single parent will stumble upon most times.

Also, the adopter should not ignore the difficulties that a person without a partner will have to face. On the one hand, it will be observed with a magnifying glass, both at the time of obtaining the certificate of suitability in the US and therefore of the supposed emotional and economic instability of the individual alone in front of the couple.

On the other hand, you will find yourself with more walls to tear down in the adopted countries whose beliefs in this regard differ little. Of course, you must count on the fact that not all countries, or practically very few, accept adoption applications from single persons.

It is evident that when a foreign country begins to place limits on intercountry adoption, it is always done by the weaker minorities. Some fluctuate, one year they allow it and another not, which means that they are not very safe countries concerning adoption.

Other countries even propose a quota on the total annual adoptions concerning single-parent families, which means that the process tends to be longer than for a couple.

If also, the person who wants to adopt alone is a man, it is much more difficult. For them, the list can be shortened so much that they can only choose between one or two countries.


In this article, we answered the following question: Can a single woman adopt a child in South Africa? We talked about the eligibility criteria for adoptions in South Africa, legal requirements and also about the difficulties of adopting as a single person.

In summary, although it is legally possible to adopt as a single person in South Africa, unfortunately, this process is oftentimes slowed down by adoption agencies and family attorneys that believe that a child should be with a married couple.

However, if you are a single woman or man who wants to adopt in South Africa, do not despair. As long as you meet all the requirements for a legal adoption in South Africa, you will find your child!

If you have a question or comment on the content, please let us know. 

FAQ on Can a single woman adopt a child in South Africa?

How much does it cost to adopt a child in South Africa?

The costs of adopting a child in South Africa can reach up to  R12 000 and R18 000. The medical assessment and psychological examination are included in this amount. 

How long does the adoption process take in South Africa?

The adoption process in South Africa can take between 6 to 18 months. However, in some cases, it can last up to 5 years. 

Is it hard for single parents to adopt?

It is harder for single parents to adopt because they have to prove that they are financially capable of sustaining a child on their own. Besides, many agencies still prefer married couples and consider them the ideal candidate. Adopting as a single male is especially hard. 

What are the benefits of being a single parent?

Some of the benefits and strengths of being a single parent are the time spent with your children; less stress; more responsible and cooperative children and more time spent with your son/daughter.

Can a woman put a baby up for adoption without the father?

A woman can put a baby up for adoption without the father under certain circumstances. Such circumstances would be if the child is the result of incest or if the child was a result of the rape of the mother.


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