Wimpie and Andrew Mattison want to adopt a child. But repeatedly, they have been told “according to the Lord, it is wrong to help gay people to adopt”.

As many as 10 different government accredited adoption agencies and social workers over a three-year period have refused to help this loving and committed couple.

Their story echoes that of Dutch couple Pieter and Dennis Duisburg* who, having registered to adopt from the Netherlands, discovered they were not welcome to adopt a child from South Africa.

Many local and international prospective adoptive parents are being turned away because of their sexual orientation.

Pam Wilson, head of adoptions at Johannesburg Child Welfare, has said there are 1.8 million children in SA children’s homes, with the potential to be adopted. Yet the website of the National Adoption Coalition states that South Africa has on average less than 2400 adoptions per year.

Discrimination is not limited to gay people. Single parent and non-Christian applicants are allegedly also being chased away from certain local agencies that believe adoption is only for heterosexual, Christian couples.

These discriminatory practices are illegal and unconstitutional.

“The Children’s Act clearly states that anyone who has been assessed by an adoption social worker and found to be fit and proper to parent may apply to adopt,” said specialist adoption attorney and founder of Wandisa Adoption Agency, Debbie Wybrow.

“It is clear that, provided you are over 18, you can be single or in a committed relationship such as marriage, a permanent life-partnership or permanent family unit. The constitution declares discrimination on the basis of race, gender, marital status or sexual orientation to be unfair, and prohibits such discrimination by the state or any individual.”

“No response was received from the Department of Social Development as to why such discriminatory practices were being allowed to continue…”

However, some adoption agencies – and the Department of Social Development that accredits them – are seemingly ignoring these sections of the Children’s Act and the constitution. This is causing a diplomatic embarrassment for South Africa.

In the Netherlands an adoption lobby group, Ek Sien Jou [I See You], has been established comprising gay, single and non-Christian prospective adoptive parents who are being prevented from adopting from South Africa.

The 35 Dutch couples and singles who have joined Ek Sien Jou have close ties to South Africa and wish to adopt a child from here.

According to Ek Sien Jou, the Pretoria-based adoption agency Abba Adoptions, the only one in South Africa accredited to do adoptions into the Netherlands, prefers children not to be adopted by applicants who are gay, single or non-Christian.

The group is lobbying to have the Department of Social Development accredit a second agency – one that will allow them to adopt – to do placements from South Africa into the Netherlands.

Executive head of Abba Adoptions, Katinka Pieterse, declined to say how many adoptions they had done to gay, single or non-Christian applicants, saying only that while they still “valued” families with a Christian belief system, most of their applicants were single and not necessarily Christians.

“Please be assured that Abba does facilitate adoptions to all types of applicants that you have referred to in our national programme.”

However, the website of local Abba partner, The Infertility Support Network, states: “Same-sex applicants, atheists or couples not belonging to or not actively involved in a Christian church will be referred to other adoption agencies by Abba Adoptions.”

In the past few weeks, members of Ek Sien Jou have received e-mails from Wêreldkinderen – Abba’s partner agency in The Netherlands – stating that they cannot adopt from South Africa.

No response was received from the Department of Social Development as to why such discriminatory practices were being allowed to continue or why a second adoption agency had not been accredited for adoptions into the Netherlands.

The few gay adoptions allowed to proceed are proving to be successful.

Cape Town couple Anton Middleton and Jean Paul Krooneman explain how well their six-year-old adopted son is doing: “Although he was three months premature and has mild cerebral palsy, he is in a mainstream school and doing phenomenally well. His teachers say he is the happiest kid in the class.”

Said Wybrow: “We have amazing case studies where a child’s interests have best been met by parents with views on marriage, sexual orientation and religion that are different to ours. Checks and balances must always be in place, but family life has to take precedence over institutionalisation.”

*Couple’s names have been changed to prevent further discrimination.

• This article was originally published by The Times.

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