Adoption advocate Dee Blackie, who has conducted extensive research into the subject over the years, believes it’s got a lot to do with ancestral considerations.
From a traditional perspective, families are guided and connected by their ancestors who help them understand who they are and it gives some people an uneasy feeling about who they are bringing into the fold when a person’s ancestry is unknown, as would be the case in an adoption.
“Adoption is viewed with great concern as bringing a child with an unknown ancestry into a family is thought to cause problems for both the adoptive family and the child,” she says.
National Adoption Coalition of SA (NACSA) spokesperson Pam Wilson concurs, saying that black communities tend to be more apathetic towards adoption because some fear that they will provoke the wrath of their ancestors if they bring in a child whose background is unknown – worse so if it is a boy child – who doesn’t share the family bloodline, but who would ultimately carry the family name forward and be in line for any future inheritance.
On the flip side, South Africa is also facing a massive child abandonment issue, with the latest estimates indicating that around 300 children are abandoned per month in the country.
Alarmingly, these are only the figures for babies who survive. Statistics show that for every abandoned child that is found alive, two are found dead.
NACSA says government policy is skewed towards the “anti-adoption sentiment”, with legislation stipulating that a girl under the age can’t consent to an adoption with the consent of a parent or guardian, while a girl aged 16 can have an abortion without consent.
Blackie’s research has found that many young, black mothers consider adoption in the same light as abortion and would rather abandon their kids than put them up for adoption.
“Formally placing a child up for adoption is seen as a conscious act, similar to the choice of abortion and amounts to rejecting a gift that the ancestors have given you. Many young women believe that the punishment for doing this could be extreme suffering and bad luck. In some cases, they believe they may even be rendered infertile as a result of their actions,” she says.
Other factors that contribute to SA’s rising child abandonment rate include poverty, desperation, depression, HIV/Aids, physical or mental disabilities and high stress levels in cases where a child has been born as a product of rape.