The article “Adoption agencies feeling the pinch” (The Star, 31/07/09, p. 24) by Kanina Foss is one to be glad of. It brings attention to the need in South Africa for the adoption of children, in a way that is both informative and protects children from stigma.
The article uses a case study of twin girls, who have spent their lives in an institution due to difficulties finding anyone to adopt them. This is apparently due to the HIV-positive status of one of the girls.
The accompanying picture by Bonile Bam does not show the faces of the children and their names are not provided in the article or caption. This protects the children’s identities.
It is in generally in the best interests of children affected by HIV/Aids to protect their identities so that they are not exposed to stigmatisation. Protecting their identities also protects their rights to privacy and dignity.
According to the UNICEF Guidelines, reporters should “always change the name and obscure the visual identity of any child…identified as…HIV positive, or living with AIDS, unless the child, a parent or a guardian gives fully informed consent”.
The article uses the case study of the twins to provide insight into the broader situation in South Africa, whereby there are more children in need of adoption than there are families willing to adopt.
The article provides context, by including figures, supplied by Joburg Child Welfare, and explaining what the law is on inter-country adoption.
It looks at reasons for a lack of willingness to adopt, including reluctance to adopt HIV-positive children and the economic crisis, as well as reasons for the apparent increase in abandoned children.
The article challenges perceptions that may be preventing people from adopting HIV-positive children, by positively portraying HIV-positive children, and quoting the adoption supervisor of Joburg Child Welfare.
Finally, the article looks at some of the factors that may contribute to socio-economic differences in adoption patterns.
Overall, the article goes a long way in raising awareness amongst South Africans of the need for adoption, an activity that Joburg Child Welfare highlights as particularly important.
The article could have been improved by providing more insight into the adoption procedure together with contact details for adoption agencies. This would enable readers to act on the information provided.
The Star is commended for publishing this article and highlighting the particular need in for adoption.