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Giving children a sense of belonging through adoption

We celebrate World Adoption Day by speaking to a local social worker about the importance of the feeling of belonging for children.

THE process of adoption has given children across the world a chance to belong. This is a social, emotional and legal process that gives children who cannot be raised by their biological parents a chance to be full and permanent legal members of another family. 

While this can be a lengthy process, the benefits it provides for the children and parents involved is impeccable, hence the celebration of World Adoption Day on November 9. 

Also read: Call to support baby homes

Elaborating more on this topic is Ikusasa Ngelami social worker, Nontobeko Mthethwa. Ikusasa Ngelami is a Child and Youth Care and Development organisation that renders preventative and therapeutic services to children, youth, parents, guardians and families.

To outline the benefits and challenges of adoption and how parents and children can work through them, Mthethwa speaks about the Circle of Courage. 

“The Circle of Courage is a psychological model based on Native American philosophy and focuses on the needs of youth for belonging, mastery, independence and generosity. 

“The model identifies four universal growth needs of all children, which are essential for their healthy development. These needs are often particularly significant in the context of adoption, where children may face unique challenges related to identity, attachment and belonging,” explains Mthethwa. 

Also read: Celebrate World Adoption Day with Holah Baby Home

Below are the four pillars of the Circle of Courage as explained by Mthethwa, which explain the importance of children having a sense of community.


Belonging refers to the need for children to feel connected to others and to be part of a family or community. In the context of adoption, this need is crucial because adopted children may have questions about their identity and origin. Adoptive parents can help fulfil this need by creating a sense of belonging within the family, openly discussing adoption and supporting the child’s curiosity about their biological roots.


Mastery is the need for children to feel competent and capable. In adoption, children may face challenges related to self-esteem and identity. Adoptive parents can support their child’s sense of mastery by providing opportunities for learning, encouraging hobbies and interests and celebrating their achievements. Positive reinforcement and encouragement help adopted children build confidence and a positive self-image.

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Independence refers to the need for children to develop a sense of autonomy and self-control. This is in line with Ikusasa Ngelami’s developmental programmes that mentor children on issues of independence, choosing friends, avoiding risky behaviours and dealing with teenage romantic-relationship-related issues that might lead to teenage pregnancy, school dropout and HIV infection. Adopted children, like all children, need opportunities to make choices, learn from their mistakes and develop a sense of responsibility. Adoptive parents can support their child’s independence by allowing age-appropriate decision-making, providing guidance while encouraging autonomy and fostering a sense of self-efficacy.


Generosity is the need for children to experience a sense of purpose by contributing to the well-being of others. In the context of adoption, this can involve helping the child understand the concept of adoption advocacy, where they can share their experiences and educate others about adoption. By giving back and helping others, adopted children can develop a positive sense of identity and purpose.

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