Switched babies to stay with parents who raised them

2015-11-17 12:03
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Pretoria - The anguish of four parents whose children were switched at birth five years ago has been put to rest when a full bench of the High Court in Pretoria on Monday ordered the children remain with the parents who raised them.

The swap only came to light 18 months ago when one of the mothers sued her boyfriend for maintenance arrears. When he denied paternity, DNA tests showed neither were the child's biological parents.

It then emerged a nurse at the Tambo Memorial hospital in Boksburg had switched the name tags of the two babies, a boy and a girl, after their birth in August 2010.

On Monday deputy judge president Aubrey Ledwaba and two fellow judges granted an order in terms of which the parents were now regarded as the legal adoptive parents of their "psychological" children.

They would have no legal rights over their biological children, but the court confirmed their right to have contact with their biological children.

A parenting co-ordinator would be appointed to oversee the process moving forward, working with the parents and the therapeutic support and integration team already involved in the case.

The state would pay for the co-ordinator.

One of the mothers initially wanted her biological child returned, but after psychological counselling, all of the parents agreed it would be in the children's best interests if they remained where they were.

One of the fathers also expressed concern about the traditional and cultural problems of raising a son from a different clan while he was a Zulu, but a traditional expert said in a report it was up to the parents to decide how to raise their children.

Ledwaba made it clear the doors of the court, as upper guardian of all children, remained open if any issues arose which could not be resolved.

He initially raised the issue if the court should not grant an interim order, so the children could have a say in where they wanted to live once they were older. However, Prof Ann Skelton argued this would not be in the children's best interests as they needed certainty and continuity in their lives.

The court appointed Skelton to investigate what would be in the children's best interest as well as the complex legal issues involved.

During previous court proceedings, Lewaba remarked there could be no "winner" in the case and it was clear the parties should co-operate and reach an agreement with which all of them were satisfied.

"It is not a matter where anyone can say they've won. It is a matter which must, at the end of the day, benefit the children," he said.

The court order would pave the way for a civil claim by the parents against health authorities.

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