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Gauteng’s abandoned babies: A growing social crisis

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Almost 400 babies have been abandoned in Gauteng hospitals over the past three years. Fear, resentment and poverty are just some of the reasons cited for parents walking away from their newborns.

374 – that is the number of newborn babies abandoned in Gauteng hospitals over the past three years. That means on average 11 babies were left at these hospitals every month.

This alarming news was revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu in a written reply to questions by the Democratic Alliance in the Gauteng Legislature.

Mahlangu stated that 147 babies were abandoned in Gauteng hospitals in 2013, followed by 124 abandoned babies in 2014 and 108 babies from January to September this year.

The worst affected hospital was Leratong Hospital where 100 babies were abandoned. Other hard-hit hospitals include:

  • 47 babies at Far East Rand Hospital;
  • 30 babies at Chris Hani Baragwanath;
  • 25 babies at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg;
  • 19 babies at Tembisa Hospital;
  • 17 babies each at Rahima Moosa, Mamelodi and Bheki Mlangeni hospitals; and
  • 11 babies each at Tshwane District and Thelle Mogoerane hospitals.

Mahlangu said to help stem the tide of abandoned babies, the department ensures that parents are identified and contact details are confirmed when they present for child birth.

“We conduct ongoing educational talks on contraceptives and choice of termination in our communities. We refer expecting mothers to social workers to discuss alternative options in case they do not want to keep the baby,” she added.

Mahlangu also pleaded with members of the community to utilise contraceptives to avoid unwanted pregnancies and undergo family planning when they intend to engage in reproductive process.

The department also noted a trend of babies being picked up in the veld, HIV status of parents and foreign mothers.

The MEC pointed out that babies were left at hospitals for a variety of reasons. These include teenage pregnancy and unwanted pregnancy, lack of family support, financial constraints due to unemployment, children deserted by fathers, fear of parents and resentment.

These factors resonated with a study released in 2014 by Dee Blackie, who is a consultant to the National Adoption Coalition of SA. The report indicated that the key contributing factors for abandoning children were poverty, the breakdown of traditional kinship support systems due to HIV/Aids and urbanisation, rape and statutory rape.

“Women who choose to abandon their children find often find themselves in desperate situations, many have been abandoned themselves by the father of their child and by their families (on discovery of their pregnancy),” stated the report.

It further highlighted other influencers such as culture, anti-adoption practices by government and legislation governing who can place a child for adoption.

DA Gauteng Health Spokesperson Jack Bloom expressed deep concern over the figures released by Mahlangu.

“It’s very sad that so many mothers feel the need to abandon their babies,” he said. “Prevention efforts should be broad-based and tackle the societal problems that break the natural bond between mother and infant.”

Child Welfare SA estimated that more than 3 500 babies were abandoned in SA in 2010.

Originally published at health24.com.


A new research on child abandonment and adoption

A new qualitative research study on child abandonment and adoption in the context of African ancestral beliefs in contemporary urban South Africa was released today by the National Adoption Coalition South Africa (NACSA) ahead of Child Protection Week.

A new qualitative research study on child abandonment and adoption in the context of African ancestral beliefs in contemporary urban South Africa was released today by the National Adoption Coalition South Africa (NACSA) ahead of Child Protection Week.

The research undertaken by Dee Blackie, a consultant to the National Adoption Coalition of SA, is the result of an intensive, 1-year long research project that will provide NACSA with the understanding and insights needed to address the growing social crisis of child abandonment and declining adoption rates in South Africa.

Blackie’s fieldwork, conducted from March 2013 to February 2014, involved in-depth interviews and participant observation with young women experiencing unplanned pregnancy, women who had been apprehended for abandoning their children, community members, police officers, nurses and social workers, baby home managers and caregivers, adoption social workers, foster care and adoptive parents, psychologists and psychiatrists, legal experts, traditional healers and abandoned children (predominantly in Alexandra, Soweto and Tembisa).

The following facts and findings were uncovered in the study:

Statistics on child abandonment in South Africa:

  • Child Welfare SA estimated that more than 3500 babies were abandoned in SA in 2010.
  • There are no current statistics detailing the number of children who are abandoned in South Africa on an annual basis, but most child protection organisations believe that the numbers have increased significantly over the past decade.


Statistics on children in South Africa:

  • There are 18.5 million children in South Africa.
  • Of these children, 4.5 million live with neither of their parents.
  • Orphans have increased by 30% over the decade to approximately 5.2 million children.
  • Over this same period, foster care grants have increased by over 70% whilst adoption has decreased by more than 50%.
  • An estimated 150 000 children live in child headed households, over 13 000 live in residential care facilities and an estimated 10 000 live on the streets of South Africa.
  • In 2013, over 11 million children were registered for child support grants and over half a million children for foster care grants.

Statistics on adoption:

Based on a review of the Registry of Adoptable Children & Parents (RACAP) as at November 2013:

  • There are 297 unmatched parents registered
  • 14 black, 190 white and 43 Indian, the remainder are unspecified.
  • Most are seeking a child of their own race.
  • Girls are preferred to boys where gender was specified.
  • 50 applicants would consider a child with special needs (HIV or with physical or mental disabilities).


There are 428 children unmatched children available for adoption

  • 398 black, 3 white, 9 termed 'mixed race', the remainder are unspecified)
  • 60% were abandoned, less than 40% formally consented for adoption by parents/family.
  • 38 are HIV positive, 22 born premature, 53 have other special needs challenges.


In summary, there are only 29 possible parents for around 429 children registered on RACAP.

Only 1699 adoptions took place in 2013, from 2840 in 2004.

Originally published at health24.com.

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