Covid-19: Joburg children's mission anticipates increase in abandoned babies


The Door of Hope Children's Mission organisation says it anticipates the number of abandoned babies will increase in these times of uncertainty during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since the start of lockdown in South Africa, the Johannesburg-based organisation has received seven abandoned babies.

The Door of Hope was started 20 years ago for mothers to safely hand over their unwanted children.

One of the ways they take in children is through the "baby box".

But during the global pandemic, the organisation says, it anticipates an increase in the number of children being abandoned by distressed mothers because of various reasons.

The first baby it received was at the end of March, just days after the Level 5 lockdown came into effect on 27 March.

According to the organisation's operations director, Nadene Grabham, three of the seven babies received were brought in by the police after they were found abandoned in the streets, one was dropped in the baby box and three others came from hospitals.

Two of those received from hospitals were abandoned by their mothers, Grabham added.

"It's really difficult to say (about the anticipated rise) because we have been around for 20 years already so we have seen times where abandonment is quite high compared to other times and networking with other homes, we know that they have also been receiving quite a few babies."

She added that she was currently compiling statistics to see how many babies were received in other homes since the lockdown started.

Grabham said they anticipated that the numbers may increase not only at Door of Hope but other homes too, because mothers were possibly faced with challenges of being unemployed, not having access to food and desperation.

Older babies being abandoned

She said the organisation was also concerned that most homes were full because reuniting children with their families and adoptions were put on hold due to the lockdown.

Grabham said from interacting with various other children's homes there was a concern that adoption processes were on hold. She said that meant that the homes would be full and unable to take in other babies being neglected, abused or abandoned.

Door of Hope currently has 71 babies in their homes.

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The organisation said most of the children it had received over the past year had been newborns, and it was rare to receive slightly older babies.

"Our concern is that our two recent ones that were found abandoned were not newborn babies. They were three and nine months old. Obviously the nine-month-old is emotionally traumatised. Imagine a nine-month-old, you already know your mom, you know your mom's voice, her face and now you all of a sudden have to cope with these voices and faces," Grabham said.

The other new babies were, however, doing well and had adapted, she added.

Strict hygiene in homes

Grabham said while the organisation was registered with the social development department, there had not been much communication with it during this time because the department was probably inundated with other things, such as offering social relief.

"But I do hope that somebody in the Department of Social Development can maybe focus on how we can get reunifications and local adoptions to start happening to make space for children needing [them]," she said.

To curb the spread of the virus and ensure toddlers were safe and unharmed, the organisation closed its doors to visitors and volunteers soon after the first coronavirus case was reported in the country on 5 March.

It also implemented stricter hygiene procedures in the homes for its staff.

"We managed to offer [staff] transport so they don't have to use public transport. We have supplied them with masks, sanitisers, and keep them updated with what government releases on Covid-19," Grabham said. 

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