Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is impressed by the holistic coverage provided by Saturday Star in their 16th of May 2015 edition. The coverage provides an in-depth and detailed look at ‘broken adoptions’ in South Africa and provides the underlying causes of this phenomenon.

To set the scene on what is described as “broken adoptions”, Saturday Star’s journalists Noni Mokati and Kashiefa Ajam look at the case involving a couple involved in a legal case to relinquish their rights as adoptive parents of a 13-year-old boy they have raised for five years. Titled, “‘Take this child back’” (Saturday Star, 16/05/2015p.1), the article paints a picture of distraught parents who have asked to cancel their adoption because of their adopted son’s unruly behaviour.

The journalists provide details of how the adoption process began as well as details of what led to the couple’s decision to terminate their contract as adoptive parents of the boy. Given the sensitive nature of the story, the journalists were mindful of how they reported the story and took care to minimise harm by withholding the identities of the parties involved. Instead of using the parents’ real names they opted to use pseudonyms and in so doing protecting the identity of the boy.

To further give context to the boy’s unruly behaviour, the journalists quoted a psychiatrist who had evaluated him. The psychiatrist explained that the boy, given a pseudonym Jimmy, is an “extremely damaged boy” as a “consequence of early abuse and neglect and the failure of his primary caregiver to bond with him at an emotional level.” Including quotes from the psychiatrist is a commendable action, this shows that the child is a victim of his circumstances and helps the reader understand what the boy is going through himself and how he had no control of his life.

They also interviewed Lumka Oliphant, spokeswoman for the Social Development Ministry who explained that the parents’ decision to become adoptees cannot be overturned because “An adoption is, by its nature, permanent and intended to ensure the well-being and stability of a child’s life. Without this two-year limitation, the legitimate purpose of an adoption may be undermined and eroded.”

Pages nine and 14 of the same edition continue in the papers’ efforts to highlight the issue of ‘broken adoptions.’ In Page nine under the title, “Broken adoptions- what the experts say” (Saturday Star, 16/05/2015), experts on the field of adoption share their insights on what the causes of failed adoptions are.

They also do their best to highlight that ‘broken adoptions’ are “The exception in South Africa and not the rule” and that other adoptive parents have “wonderful fulfilling experiences with their adoptive children who, despite their difficult circumstances with their biological parents thrive in loving homes.”

Providing this information is good as it helps alleviate some fears future adoptive parents might have and helps not deter prospective couples who might want to adopt in future. One of the experts also recommended post-adoptive support as a way of helping parents cope with challenges that can come about after adoption.

To add to this, the pictures used in conjunction with the story are done tastefully; one cannot identify who the children in the images are. These pictures help illustrate how some babies are waiting for adoption “and the chance of parents and a loving home.”

In Page 14 of the edition, an editorial piece about adoption titled “When love is just not enough” (Saturday Star, 16/05/2015) sums up the holistic coverage on “broken” adoptions by the Saturday Star. The editor weighs in on their lead story on Page One. They point out that “A child is, obviously, not like a car, a dress or an appliance you can simply take back because it is faulty or you don’t like it anymore.”

They also look at what the parents might have gone through to finally reach this decision, and makes the conclusion that ‘broken adoptions’ are a tragedy and have devastating consequences for all the parties involved. The piece ends on a positive note by encouraging people to consider adoption as “it enriches the lives of families… and it also helps save the lives of children.”

This well-rounded coverage of a child-centred issue that hardly gets the lion’s share of media’s coverage should be commended. The sensitivity at which the story was reported is also commendable. Well done to the Saturday Star.

By Kgalalelo Gaebee