Adoption is common. It is happening daily and impacts scores of families around South Africa. But it is something which is misunderstood on a regular basis.

There are many misconceptions about adoption which may impact your decision to adopt

The reality is that adoption is a beautiful process which can change the lives of the children and the people who adopt them.

If you’re considering adoption, here are some truths which you can mention when speaking to friends and family:

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Myth #1: Birth mothers are young, immature women

This is one of the most common misconceptions surrounding adoption. It’s likely that this has been perpetuated by what we often see on movies and TV shows. And those cases do happen.

The reality can be quite different though. Often, birth mothers are slightly older, in their twenties, and have made a well-considered choice to give their child a better life. They realise they can’t support a child properly, either emotionally or financially, and have decided to give the child to a family who is able to provide better care.

Myth #2: Adoption takes years

There’s a perception that it can take many years to adopt a child, and, yes, it’s likely to take longer than the 40 weeks of a pregnancy. But many adoption cases are finalised within two years, meaning that after deciding to adopt, you could very soon have your child. It is unlikely to be the four or five years you’ve heard many horror stories about.

Myth #3: Adoption is expensive

It’s a common misconception that adoption is inordinately expensive, putting it out of reach of the average person or couple. Yes, it’s true that adoption does come with certain costs. These can include legal fees, medical fees for the birth mother and the child, travel expenses, application fees and more.

Of course, local adoptions are far more affordable than international ones. So, if you’re seriously thinking about adoption, try to make sure it’s an adoption in South Africa

Myth #4: Only traditional couples can adopt

There’s long been a perception that only traditional couples can adopt a child. Luckily times have changed. Whether you are gay or straight, in a couple or single, rich or poor, professional or unemployed, you can adopt a child.

Make sure you’re open with the professionals working on your case about your situation at home and they will ensure you’re treated with the respect and fair treatment you deserve.

Myth #5: Adopted children have emotional and behavioural problems

This is another myth which is likely to have come about because of movies and TV. It’s certainly not true that all adopted children have emotional and behavioural problems. Children from all backgrounds, whether adopted or living with their birth parents, could have these types of problems.

Myth #6: Birth parents can come and take your child back 

There’s a fear among many adoptive parents that the birth parents can take the child back. But once an adoption has been finalised in court, the child is yours as if you’d given birth. You don’t have to worry about him or her being taken from you.

Myth #7: Birth mothers will never see their children

Yes, this used to be true many years ago. But the reality is that times have changed. Today, birth mothers have a say about how much contact they have with their child. She is able to choose a family which agrees with her preferences about this.

Therefore, if she would like an open adoption, she selects a family who would like this option. And if she would like a closed adoption and would not like contact with her child, she chooses a family who would prefer this arrangement. It’s up to the mother’s to choose how much contact she’d prefer.

Myth #8: Adopted children should never know the truth

A few years ago, it was common for adopted children to be kept in the dark. But as discussed, times have changed.

The question, though, is when children should be made aware that they’re adopted. Should you make it known early on about how your child came to be part of your family? Or should you wait until the child is older and more emotionally stable?

You might think this is a painful or difficult conversation to have. And it will be. But it’s also an opportunity to share a meaningful conversation with your child and he or she will appreciate your honesty. Again, there have been many movies and TV shows which show this to be a major conversation.