I first met Mahlatsi’s dad, Lars, on the train to St James on a school outing to the tidal pools earlier this year. Lars and his partner Allen were spending some time in Cape Town sorting out their living and work arrangements in preparation for a big move from Denmark to South Africa. Lars is Danish, Allen is American and Mahlatsi is South Africa – so they’re a truly multinational family. Read on for some of their story and why they chose to move to SA in their own words.
We decided to move here during the month we stayed in Johannesburg for the adoption. The playground near the hotel where we were statying was filled with black kids, white kids, colored kids, Asian kids and Orthodox Jewish kids. It was literally like watching an advertisement for what the world should be, and it was this experience that made us decide to raise our son here. We want him to be a proud black South African man with a curiosity for the world around him, and we feel that this is the place that can help teach him to be that man.
We moved to South Africa because we felt that living here would give our family more opportunities to see diversity in action. It is important for us to live in a country where every colour can be seen as equal and diversity can be celebrated.
Did you always know that you wanted to adopt?
Adopting was always part of our “plan”. It is a long process in Denmark and it required us moving back there and really establishing ourselves in the society. The cost was quite great, but it was something that we had saved and hoped for for a very long time.
Did you use an agency or did you adopt through Child Welfare? What would you recommend?
As we adopted from Denmark, we had to use the government agency there. They in turn only work with a few countries and South Africa is the only country (on the Danish list) that allows for adoption by same sex couples. The Danish agency works with Impilo here in South Africa. We found them to extremely caring, patient, and truly concerned for our child’s welfare. We can not say enough good things about them and our experience.
What was the hardest part of the process?
The hardest part of the process was the process in Denmark. The meetings, home visits, background checks, medical checks etc. are all very time consuming and costly. We wanted to adopt an older child and therefore had to undergo more background checks and interviews than a couple wanting to adopt a baby. The hardest part is going through a lengthy process all the while knowing that children are in need of homes. You just wish that the person typing up your reports would type faster and move your case through the system quicker.
What was your first night together as a family like?
We were so tired! We flew to South Africa and met our son on a Monday and by Wednesday he was living with us at the hotel. I remember that we had eaten supper, bathed, and had story time all before 5:00 pm! I had no idea that time would go by so slowly and it took a few weeks to really get in our rhythm and find how to all be together. Mahlatsi was a dream though and handled everythng in his usual postiive manner.
Do you celebrate ‘adoption day’ with any traditions?
We have only had one and we call it “family day”. We plan to continue to treat is as the ultimate birthday party. It’s an incredibly special day and we make sure to send warm wishes to his children’s home and say thnk you to all of the “mamas” that cared for him before we arrived.
Advice for the screening process?
I’m sure the process is different in every country, but my best advice is to be patient.
How can friends and family best support those adopting?
Our friends and family were/are over the moon with our adoption and they love Mahalatsi. I think sharing parenting advice is the best way to support. We make no great claims that about knowing what we’re doing, and we’re very happy to have the suggestions, tips, tricks, and experience of other parents to help us. Of course our situation is different from birth parents…but good advice is always good advice.
Top tip for doing life as a rainbow nation family?
Do you. There is no right or wrong way to be a family. Our family includes an American, a Dane, and a South African – we celebrate our uniqueness, our colors, and our backgrounds. Do not deny that your family is different…embrace the differences and celebrate them. Your family is one of the special ones – be thankful!
This is my favourite video from Lars’ Instagram feed – I’ve watched it countless times.
I dare you not to smile!