Child protection statistics

Child protection statistics

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In South Africa, 2017 statistics show that the child population is approximately 19,579,000 children.  Of these, approximately 2.8 million are orphans (these include 530,000 maternal orphans, 1.728 million paternal orphans and more than 505,000 double orphans). In addition, we have tens of thousands of crisis pregnancies annually. Some of these children live in relatively safe kinship or communal care relationships but experts suggest that more than half (1.8 million) could benefit from adoption (either by extended family–to afford them a permanent, legal, familial relationship–or by unrelated families).

The children most in need of adoption are those abandoned by their families.  Statistics indicate that there are about 3500 such children that survive abandonment every year.  If they have no family or kin, they desperately need adoptive families to care for them.

Of the 1.8 million children in need of adoption, only a tiny fraction find adoptive families.  In 2013, 1669 children were adopted and in 2014, the number dropped to 1448.  This is half the number of adoptions that took place ten years ago in 2004 (when 2840 adoptions took place).  In 2016 these numbers once again dropped, to 1165, most of which are step-parent adoptions. And, recently confirmed statistics from the Department of Social Development show that the number has remained disturbingly low over the last financial year.  Between 01 April 2017 and 31 March 2018 there were only 1033 national adoption, and 153 intercountry adoption.  The figures, which are almost identical to those of the previous year, graphically show just how few adoptions are taking place in the country.

To understand the reasons why there has been such a dramatic drop in adoptions, visit the News Articles section of this website.

Here is a detailed list of child protection statistics in South Africa.  They illustrate why there are so many concerns about the state of children in the country:

  • There are currently 19,579,000 children living in South Africa (35% of the country’s population).
  • 1 million children are born in South Africa every year.
  • More than 1/5th of all children live in KwaZulu Natal.
  • In 2016, there were almost 12 million children receiving the Child Care Grant, 470 000 children receiving the Foster Care Grant and 131 000 receiving the Disability Grant.
  • By 2018, only 416,016 were receiving the Foster Care Grant because of lapsing foster care orders. 12,273,900 (63% of the child population) received the Child Care Grant and 147,465 received the Care Dependency Grant.
  • South Africa has 2.8 million orphans, of which over a million are maternal or double orphans.
  • The highest number of these orphans live in KwaZulu Natal (719,000), the Eastern Cape province (458,000).
  • In addition, women in the country experience tens of thousands of crisis pregnancies annually.  In many instances, the mothers are not able to raise their babies.
  • At any given time, there are about 550 children registered on the Register of Adoptable Children and Parents (RACAP) and awaiting adoption.
  • Estimates are that there are 21,000 children living in 355 registered Child and Youth Care Centres across South Africa and about 2,000 living in 115 unregistered ones (although the total number may be as high as 28,000).
  • Despite this need, adoption numbers declined by 50%, from 2840 to 1448, between 2004 and 2014.
  • In 2016, only 1165 adoptions took place, a further 30% drop from 2014.
  • Up to 80% of those 1165 adoptions in 2016 were probably family adoptions (meaning that less than 300 were unrelated adoptions).
  • In Kwa-Zulu Natal (the province with the largest number of orphans), only 8 adoptions took place in 2016.
  • In 2017, just over 4 million children were found to live with neither of their parents.  Of these, approximately 3-3.5 million have parents living elsewhere and 500,000 to 1 million are orphaned or abandoned.
  • In 2015, there were 90 000 children living in 50 000 child headed households. By 2017, this declined to 58,000 living in 32,000 child headed households.
  • On average, 900 children are murdered every year in South Africa. This excludes abandoned children whose deaths are not listed as part of the country’s crime statistics.
  • Approximately 3500 children survive abandonment every year.  Estimates are that for every one child found alive, two are found dead.
  • For this reason, a recent Medical Research Council study on child homicide reveals that children in South Africa are at the highest risk of unnatural death in the first six days of life.
  • Research shows that 65% of abandoned children are newborns, and 90% are under the age of one.
  • A large number of babies have already survived a late-term abortion prior to being abandoned. 52-58% of South Africa’s abortions are illegal (up to 150 000 per annum), and in Gauteng, studies indicate that up to half of these abortions (which are seldom policed, and often unsuccessful) take place in the third trimester.
  • 70% of abandonments are unsafe.
  • Many abandoned babies are never found.

With thanks to the Children’s Institute and Child Gauge.  For more information about child demography in South Africa, see

One Comment

  1. 06 Nov, 2015

    Need your contact details

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