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How do you know if adoption is for you?

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People consider adoption for a myriad of reasons, but, like with any parenting endeavour, it can feel daunting to even consider taking on the responsibility that comes with it. How do you know if adoption is the right choice for you? While many discussions around adoption focus on why someone could or should choose this route to become a parent in contrast to biological options, Beverley Beukes, who is a social worker, adoptive parent and the MD of Oasis Haven, a registered Child and Youth Care Centre in Johannesburg, says that there are other helpful self-assessments that potential adoptive parents should be doing to understand if it is the right fit for them.

Emotional skills

While many different types of people with diverse backgrounds and personalities have adopted successfully, there are some character traits that have strengthened their adoption experience. Beukes says that, as unexpected as it may be, having a sense of humour is one of the most valuable tools in an adoptive parent’s hands. “The ability to laugh at oneself, at the world, and at a child’s antics is a great boost in facing challenges. This doesn’t mean that all adoptive parents are great humourists, but parents who don’t take every little thing too seriously and who are able to laugh along the way find that laughter is often the best medicine and a sense of humour is a survival tool,” she explains.

Linked to this is the ability to accept and express emotions. This helps parents with children who have been adopted navigate their own parenting journey in a healthy way – with all its ups and downs – and model good emotional health for their children. Part of this includes being secure in themselves. Successful adoptive parents hold a continuously firm belief that they are the right parent for their child, and they can continue investing in and committing to their child, even when there isn’t always reciprocation from them.


Other resilience skills are also immensely helpful for parents who adopt, such as being able to maintain a sense of perspective so that momentary challenges don’t skew their entire perspective; being able to tolerate unknowns and changes; and flexibility. “Flexibility is an important quality. Adoptive parents must be able to make mistakes, adjustments, and allowances – this is as much an adjustment for them as it is for their child. They need to acknowledge when something isn’t working and to try a different approach,” says Simone Oketch, social worker at Oasis Haven. Being a good communicator and problem solver will go a long way to cultivate this flexibility.

Parents will also need to prioritise a sense of family. “Successful adoptive parents see the family as a team that works together. When problems arise, they concentrate on the family as a unit, rather than on one specific member. They view the child in their total environment, knowing the child is influenced by many factors, including school, neighbourhood, friends, and past experiences,” explains Beukes.

It may feel overwhelming to look at all of these characteristics and feel like there are areas where you don’t measure up, but remember that parenting is a journey (one that often starts even before you have a child living in your home) and everyone has the capacity to grow in all of these capabilities.

Beukes and Oketch co-authored a guide called Strengthening Families in a South African Context, sponsored by Ambassadors for Good, which provides an overview of foster care, adoption and family preservation, as well as guidance for statutory and adoption social workers on supporting families. For more information, visit

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