What happens to an abandoned baby once it enters the system?

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When a baby is abandoned, social workers will often look to the family first for placement before finding other foster parents.
When a baby is abandoned, social workers will often look to the family first for placement before finding other foster parents.

It's nothing a new. A mother gets overwhelmed and decides to abandon her baby. Little ones have been found in the bushes, in bins and various other places around the country. 

This time a baby was found abandoned at the Bellville Railway Station. A security guard found the 15-month-old baby on 11 July. The baby was taken to the Bellville SAPS, where a case of child abandonment has been registered. 

Police believe the mother is a 21-year-old who lives in Mfuleni in Cape Town. 

The investigating officer is also following up on information that she might be in hiding in Langa.

Warrant Officer Joseph Swartbooi tells Drum that they are still in search of the mother as she cannot be found at her residence.

“We are still in search of her, she is still missing, and the child is in a safe space which in this case is the hospital.”

He tells us that the child was not harmed in any way and will soon be in the care of social workers until the mother is found.

The 21 year old from Tokwana Street in Mfuleni has been traced and arrested for child abandonment. She was found hiding in Langa yesterday.

The police are thankful to community members  for their assistance and information provided, that assisted with the investigation

What happens in such situations? We asked the experts. 

Child protection social worker Qhamani Trom tells us what their first steps are when a child is found abandoned.

Read more |Number of babies abandoned during lockdown increase

“When a child is abandoned, they would be in need of care and protection and the role of the social worker would be for us to pick up the child and we would place the child with a safety parent. We usually seek for a safety parent to be within the family as much as possible whether it’s the grandmother or aunt that will avail themselves to caring for the child.”

When there is no family available to care for the child, a social worker would then look for foster parents.

“If the child has no family available, we would get a court order to legally place the child with a safety parent. This would need the presiding officer of the case to agree with the recommendation of the social worker. Then we find a suitable safety parent to place the child with for three months in temporary safe care, but we do not rush to adoption or foster care first, we look to see if there is available family to care for the child.

“If the parent of the child is a substance abuse user and can't care for their child as a result, we try by all means to assist the parent with rehabilitation and we usually make the application to the rehab centres ourselves. But we first need to determine what led to the abandonment of the child, if it's because of financial difficulties we give the parent time to seek employment, but the child will no longer be in their care.”

Qhamani says that the role of social workers in abandonment cases is to offer counselling or to refer new mothers who may have difficulties bonding or connecting with their child after birth to counselling organisations such as FAMSA. 

However, if the mother does not wish to care for the child or is found unfit to be a parent, the child is given to a suitable guardian which will lead to the child being in that guardians foster care.

Read more | Baby shelters need your help, here’s how you can show up for them

According to Arrive Alive, the number of babies abandoned increased during the start of the lockdown last year. Safety places such as Door of Hope Children’s Mission were stretched to capacity as they are unable to facilitate adoption processes to unite babies and children with their forever families or biological ones under the lockdown.

For baby shelters please contact:

Lighthouse Baby Shelter: 011 795 4207

Door of Hope Children’s mission: +27 11 484 9930

Baby Moses children’s sanctuary: (011) 768 7600

Heartlands baby sanctuary: +(27) 21 852 3527

Kids Haven: +27 (011) 421 4222

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