adoption-research-south-africaIf you are over 21 you can get your adoption papers without your adoptive parents’ permission. Biological parents can only have access to the adoption records if the adoptive parents and the child give their written consent. If they refuse, the biological parents can leave their details in the file so that they can be contacted if the adoptive parents or child change their minds. The identity of the parties cannot be made known. For example, medical information can be made available to a doctor. Before you can start the search it is suggested that the adoptee receive counselling by a social worker or professional who deals in adoption issues. This is necessary for the adoptee to prepare for the unforeseen.

When did adoption records officially start in South Africa? find out here.
There are many scenarios that one has to consider why counselling is so important:

  • The biological parent is happily married and either the mother or the father has never told her spouse or her children – how is her family going to deal with this?
  • She might not want to meet you – this is a very real problem
  • Your birth might have been the product of a bad relationship, rape, incest, drug abuse or anything that your mother might not wish to disclose.
  • There is always a reason why a baby is given up for adoption and this is something that never leaves the mother and this is something that the adopted child feels hard to accept.
  • The feeling on abandonment and being unwanted it a very real and difficult issue to deal with.


The first thing ones needs to do is to determine is where they were born and which adoption agency handled their adoption and then it is better to go straight to that agency which handled the adoption.
The agencies are supposed to, by law; keep their adoption records for 70 years. If they were adopted in East London then the best place to go is to the agency in East London. If they are not sure they should contact the Registrar of Adoptions in Pretoria as she has a record of all the adoptions which have taken place in South Africa. They have to give the Registrar their ID number and the names of their adoptive parents and where the adoptive parents lived when they were adopted. Adoption records are kept for 70 years and are the initial source of information. The records are kept with the Registrar of Adoptions in Pretoria.
The following records are kept:

  • The consent form
  • The adoptive parents’ application
  • The social worker’s report on the adoptive parents
  • The social worker’s report on the birth parents (if it exists).
  • Specific information regarding an adoption may be given to any person at the discretion of the Registrar.

One can also ask the Registrar to look for their birth mother for them but the Registrar is extremely busy and the investigation takes at least a year. If the adoptions were done by the Johannesburg Child & Family Welfare Society or Princess Alice Adoption Home you should contact Kaye Fermo (see below). She can sometimes assist adoptee’s who were adopted from Cotlands and can assist if the Catholic Women’s League is too busy to handle their enquiries. Of course she would have to liaise with the Social Worker at Catholic Adoptions first.It is unwise for an adoptee to look for the mother himself. It is better for all concerned if they go through a Social Worker who can pave the way for them. The Social Worker can offer counselling to both adoptee and birth mother and can assist in putting the two together. It is highly traumatic for a mother suddenly to be confronted by the adoptee although she may have been longing for that to happen for years. Both sides need a bit of preparation. Need further help? Please contact me and I can help trace your biological parents.

I can only get copies of adoption papers for children adopted in the Orange Free State from 1918 – 1942.

For more information contact:

Registrar of Adoptions, Department of Social Development 

Private Bag X901, Pretoria, 0001

Tel: 012 – 312 7608 Fax: 012 – 312 7837.

Tel: 012 – 312 7593

Fax. 012 – 323 3733

Contact Persons are Lorna Swart Tel: 012 312 7791

Thembi Mathonsi  Tel 012 3127032
Ms. Dikeledi Louw: Tel: 012 3127146
Mr. Isaac Chavalala Tel: 012 312763


ACVV (Afrikaanse Christelike Vroue Vereeniging)

61 Caledon Street, Zonnebloem, Cape Town, 8001

Tel: 021 461 7437  Fax: 021 461 0074

BADISA The former Diakonale Dienste amalgamated with the former Christelike Maatskaplike Raad (CMR)

11 Pastorie Street, or Private Bag X8, Bellville, 7535

Tel: 021 957 7130 Fax: 021 957 7131

Child Welfare Adoption Centre (formerly at 31 Eden Road, Claremont, 7700) (associated with Cape Town Child Welfare)

13 Electric Road, Wynberg, 7800

Tel: 021 761 7130Fax: 021 797 3390


CAFDA (Cape Flats Development Association)

Corner Retreat Road and Prince George Drive, Retreat, 7945

PO Box 211, Retreat, 7965

Tel: 021 706 2050 Fax: 021 706 0756

Communicare Community Development Centre

2 Roggebaai Square, Cape Town, 8001 or PO Box 259, Cape Town, 8000

Tel: 021 421 6008 Fax. 021 421 6094

Jewish Community Services 

9 Gorge Road, Highlands, 8001

Tel: 021 462 5520 Fax. 021 462 5866

Recommended Adoption Councillors: Irene Berman in Constantia Tel: 021-794-4287 or 794 3102

Eileen Jordaan in Pinelands Tel: 021 -531-2858

Chriselda at Tel: 011-2988500 Johannesburg Child Welfare Society, Cotlands and Princess Alice Pretoria.

Further reading  “Dons Story” Part 1  and Part 2 by Heather MacAlister.

Rescued at Birth – Kindle book on Adoption