If you think you may be facing an unplanned pregnancy, it is important to get it confirmed as soon as possible. Early knowledge of the pregnancy is vitally important as it will allow you more time to make a decision about the outcome of your pregnancy—and your life.
There are decisions to be made and challenges to be met at a time when you are feeling emotionally confused and overwhelmed at the sudden change of direction your life is about to take. You may feel totally alone and too inexperienced in life to make such enormous decisions. At the same time the pregnancy brings about physical changes in your body, plays havoc with your hormones and scrambles your emotions.
Helps is at hand
Women facing a crisis pregnancy have so many things to consider that sometimes they only choose their course of action late in their pregnancy or even after the baby has been born. Birth mothers are encouraged to seek assistance as early as possible to ensure they are guided in their choices while the whole range is still available to them.
It’s clearly not the best time for you to be making any major decisions... Fortunately, you do not have to go it alone– there are people and organisations available to help you consider all the options and decide on the best solution for your life. To find an organisation close to you, contact Addoption's call centre on 0800 864 658for immediate assistance.
Whom to tell
An unplanned pregnancy is a difficult situation to handle all by yourself. At some point you will want to talk to someone in order to share your feelings and get help with the decision-making process. Most girls will start by telling their boyfriend. Telling your parents is never easy and many girls will require help to do this. Telling sisters and friends can help to share the problem but may not lead to constructive help.
Telling a clinic sister or social worker attached to an antenatal clinic or hospital, a teacher, minister of religion or contacting a helpline, could lead to a referral to a professional who specialises in the counselling and support of mothers facing an unplanned pregnancy. These counselors will help you to explore all the options and help you to reach a realistic decision for both yourself and the baby.
Consider all your options...
You only have 9 months to consider all your options and should one of those options be the termination of your pregnancy, you will have to make this decision within the first 4 months of your pregnancy. Even though you may feel overwhelmed, there are many options to consider:
- Marry the father
- Keep your child and raise the baby as a single parent
- Keep your child and give to your mother or other family member to raise
- Give your baby up for adoption
- Have a legal, medically supervised abortion
- Or have your child placed in foster care, until you are in a position to care for the child
There is no right or wrong answer, only the one that seems like the best option for you and your child.The decision will not be easy and will, in fact, probably be the most difficult and important decision you will have to make in your life.
Abandoning the baby
For many women facing an unplanned pregnancy, abandoning their child may seem like the easiest and quickest way to solve their problem – no questions asked and they retain their anonymity. In South Africa, the numbers of babies being abandoned increases every year with hundreds of babies being abandoned all over the country every day.
Unfortunately, by doing this, these mothers deprive their children of the background and personal history that contributes to their sense of identity.
Keeping the baby
If you decide that you are in a position to raise your baby yourself, you could qualify for a Child Support Grant from the government.
Find a social worker
Once the birth mother has received option counselling to weigh up the long and short-term, as well as legal, financial, physical and emotional implications of the choices and is satisfied that adoption is the route she will take, her first point of contact should be an adoption social worker.
This social worker may work for the State, an organisation or a private establishment that facilitates adoptions or offers services to birth mothers. They should hold a special accreditation that is recognised by the Department of Social Development and they are qualified to counsel all role-players with knowledge and compassion, but put the needs and desires of the birth mother, and the interests of the child first.
If a new mother decides only after the birth that she cannot care for the child, the adoption option still exists, and is of course preferable to abandonment. Nurses and hospital social workers at the establishment where antenatal classes or the actual birth take place, can refer the birth mother to the appropriate organisation.
Once she has the support of a social worker, the birth mother will become part of a therapeutic process designed to care for her physical and emotional health and thus the wellbeing of the child. Depending on her needs, she may receive medical and ante-natal care, HIV counseling or treatment or be accommodated in a home for expectant mothers during her last trimester. Care and accommodation is also available during the recovery period after the birth.
During this time, and depending on which organisation is assisting her, the birth mother will be advised of her options in terms of selecting the adoptive parents and determining the contents of the adoption plan and agreement, for example the extent to which she would like to receive progress reports on the child's early yearsof development, in line with the type of adoption chosen and prevailing legislation.
The social worker will work with the court to facilitate the legal process which will include identifying the birth father, including him in counselling sessions and obtaining his consent to give the baby up for adoption. An adoption cannot be concluded until both birth parents have given consent. If a father has disappeared and his whereabouts are unknown, reasonable attempts will have to be made to trace him.
If the birth mother is a minor, the social worker will assist in the interactions with her guardians, who then have legal responsibilities in terms of consenting to the adoption.
The consent forms are signed before a magistrate in the family court and from this date, the birth mother or father has the right to change their minds within a 60-day period during which the baby may be in the care of the adoptive parents or fostered in the interim.
Thereafter the adoption is considered complete and the adoptive parents are considered the child's natural parents. The birth mother will have effectively given up the rights to the child but the conditions set out in the agreement will be upheld by the parties concerned.
The birth father's rights
The Children’s Act specifically refers to the rights of the natural father. In essence it means that the natural birth father has the right to be informed of the pregnancy, must be involved and have the opportunity to acknowledge paternity and to come on record and be included in the registration of the child’s birth.
The father can accept or oppose an adoption and his stance on the adoption must be put on record.
Acknowledging paternity implies accepting some financial responsibility in line with parental rights, the pregnancy, birth and maintenance should the child remain with the birth mother. It is important that a natural father be counselled on his options, rights and responsibilities.
If you are the natural father of an unplanned pregnancy or a child born out of an unplanned pregnancy, then you have the right to adopt your child should the birth mother decide to give the child up for adoption.Your rights in this regard supersede those of any adoptive parents or extended family of the birth mother, unless she is a minor. However, the interests of the child are foremost and the father must be assessed and found to be suitable as an adoptive parent.
If you consent to an adoption, the 60-day window period within which consent to an adoption can be withdrawn applies to the natural father as well.
There are a number or organisations that can assist you in making the right decision and following the correct procedures – please make use of their services.
For more information about adoption call 0800 864 658 or visit www.adoption.org.za for assistance and advice.