“Colour-blind” Adoption

Today many couples wish to start a family and don’t consider the possibility that they may not be able to conceive. They take pregnancy for granted and aren’t aware that 15% of couples in South African struggle with fertility, in fact 1 out of 10 suffer from that particular disappointment. Most visit infertility clinics and pursue various other forms of in vitro conception but some eventually are compelled to consider the alternative option, adoption.

My question, in regards to adoption in South Africa is, does transracial adoption promote racial tolerance or take away from the child’s cultural identity?


Little research has been done on transracial adoption in South Africa; most of the studies are based on surveys and interviews done overseas. Johannesburg has however said to have had a huge drop in the number of adoptions over the past 9 years. From 2004 to 2013, Over 1000 less children were adopted. That is a 40% drop. This decrease is said to have occurred because of “implementation of the new Children’s Act in 2010 and what has been referred to as ‘cultural barriers” (National Adoption Coalition; 2015).

Babies in Mind practitioners (a private practice in Cape Town that work with psychotherapy for adults and parental guidance) in South Africa state, “If you have had unsuccessful fertility treatment, you need to fully resolve and work through the pain and loss of not being able to conceive your own biological child before embarking on the adoption process” (Babies in mind; 2015). The process of adoption is lengthy and requires months of interviews with social workers who have to determine if prospective parents are in fact suited for adoption from a practical and social point of view.

Emotionally the responsibility of caring for a child requires a huge commitment and many factors have to be considered. For instance, does genetics have an influence on a child’s upbringing? An interesting study was done on adoptive children whose biological parents were involved in some sort of criminal activity. The study showed that genetics did have a significant influence on the adopted child’s behavior, not necessarily violence but they were definitely more prone to criminal acts. These factors often stop couples from adopting.

However, there are still many couples overcome their fears and persevere with adoption. Most seek a child of their own race because of later concerns of cultural differences. The biggest issue with transracial adoption is bringing up a child of a different culture and ancestry, which is said to cause a tremendous strain on the adoptive family. It is perceived that behavioral issues rise later on in the adopted child’s adolescent life. One study reported that adopted children are often more aggressive and reckless compared to biological children and that they tend to grow up having deep emotional concerns that could lead to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, theft, excessive lying etc. Often the core of the problem is attachment and separation issues.

The Encyclopedia of Adoption by Christine A. Adamec and Laurie C. Miller states, “Those who disapprove of white parents adopting black children believe that white parents cannot truly understand black children, that children will be deprived of their heritage, and that their development will be harmed,” The biggest challenge in South Africa is, “High levels of child abandonment and low levels of adoption, coupled with conflicting cultural perceptions of these practices in South Africa, indicates a need for more understanding of the social context that created this situation” (National Adoption Coalition; 2015).

Undergraduate students (mostly black) in South Africa were surveyed on Transracial adoption, and the majority of them supported this notion because of the possibility of it increasing racial tolerance. 5% of them believed it would cause loss of racial and culture identity. (Questia; 2007).

Carey Sheffield-Webb (Social Worker from Child Welfare South Africa) describes the process of how social workers pair the children to suitable families. First and foremost they attempt to pair them according to “race, culture and religious background”. However, there is far more white applicants therefore “black children are placed with white families as it is in their best interest to be placed within a stable family environment, even if not racially or culturally the same as their own” (GroundUp; 2014). She encourages these transracial adoptive parents to inform their kids of their cultural background and racial identity.

The UK’s Education Secretary, Michael Gove believes that it is”outrageous to deny a child the chance of adoption because of a misguided belief that race is more important than any other factor” (CNN; 2012). Adoption is an extremely emotional topic of discussion, and although I believe adoption in itself is great and I want those considering adoption to have a positive outlook, I still think that it is of great importance to not deny your child their true cultural roots. Educate and inform them, let them decide which pathway they would like to take.


Adamec, Christine A, and William L Pierce. The Encyclopedia Of Adoption. New York: Facts on File, 2000. Print.

Adoptioncoalitionsa.org,. ‘National Adoption Coalition SA —’. N.p., 2015. Web. 24 May 2015.

Babiesinmind.co.za,. ‘Adoptions’. N.p., 2015. Web. 24 May 2015.

Groundup.org.za,. ‘Adoption And Race: We Unpack The Issues | Groundup’. N.p., 2015. Web. 24 May 2015.

Parent,. ‘The Process Of Adoption In South Africa’. N.p., 2011. Web. 24 May 2015.

Questia.com,. ‘List Of Books And Articles About Transracial Adoption | Online Research Library: Questia’. N.p., 2015. Web. 24 May 2015.

Lola Jaye, Special to CNN. ‘Opinion: Should Race Be A Factor In Adoption? – CNN.Com’. CNN. N.p., 2015. Web. 25 May 2015.


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