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By Hein Kaiser

Journalist


Organisation set for battle to save infant safes ‘to prevent dumping’

13 abandoned babies were registered between April and October in Gauteng.


The Gauteng department of social development has vetoed life-saving infant deposit boxes and warned mothers that abandoning their babies in these safes is illegal. The department said it encouraged mothers to use the existing structures of child welfare to relinquish unwanted infants. Nadene Grabham of Baby Savers SA, an organisation which provides child protection centres with the boxes or safes, said many mothers do not have these options available. She also questioned whether the actual device, a safe-like baby deposit box with an alarm attached to alert on occupation, are illegal. “Abandonment is illegal, but moms abandon their babies in…

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The Gauteng department of social development has vetoed life-saving infant deposit boxes and warned mothers that abandoning their babies in these safes is illegal.

The department said it encouraged mothers to use the existing structures of child welfare to relinquish unwanted infants.

Nadene Grabham of Baby Savers SA, an organisation which provides child protection centres with the boxes or safes, said many mothers do not have these options available. She also questioned whether the actual device, a safe-like baby deposit box with an alarm attached to alert on occupation, are illegal.

“Abandonment is illegal, but moms abandon their babies in hospitals or in rubbish dumps. We want to change the narrative so a mom safely relinquishes a baby into someone’s care via a baby safe, instead of a plastic bag, into the arms of a registered place of safety or a baby saver linked to a place of safety. This is not abandonment but safe relinquishment” said Grabham.

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‘Accepting a child in a baby saver breaks the law’ – Social development department

According to the Social development, places of safety for children can only accept them on instruction of a court order.

Social development MEC Mbali Hlophe said the rights and welfare of a child is front and centre of the department’s priorities.

“The department upholds the rights of the child, especially a right to life. The current law makes provision for the birth mother to relinquish her rights.

“However, this should be done within the child protection system. There is a structured system in place to protect, care and uphold the rights of children. “

The childcare system is facilitated through the department’s regional offices and service points, the SA Police Service, family courts, hospitals and child protection organisations. Through these systems, birth mothers can safely relinquish their babies,” she said.

Bronwyn Engelbrecht of the Democratic Alliance said the decision was “akin to a death sentence for infants where the alternative would be a plastic bag streetside, a box in a dump or other means of cruel disposal”.

“There are girls who fall pregnant due to circumstances beyond their control. They must do the unthinkable because they cannot look after their children. These babies are left in the veld, in plastic bags, in bins, where even the rats start eating them.”

13 abandoned babies registered between April and October

Hlophe said according to the department’s records, there were only 13 abandoned babies registered between April and October. Grabham found this number suspicious, given that various places of safety, with baby savers installed, have collectively reported almost twice as many babies deposited.

“Have they checked the morgues, the dumps, hospitals where moms walk out on their children?” she asked.

Hlophe said the department ensured services and resources were available to a child and mother year-round.

“This is done through the department’s partnership with funded child protection organisations, registered, screened and vetted private temporary safe care homes and 151 registered and funded child and youth care centres.

“While the department and child protection organisations operate from 8am to 4pm, the SA Police Service is legislatively expected to provide such services to child or mother after hours and on weekends,” she said.

The department hinted at possible human trafficking, with perpetrators using baby boxes as a smokescreen.

“We have found a trend emerging where the people who are entrusted to render legally sanctioned services have compromised the protection of these children, allegedly for their own selfish monetary gain or through their ignorance in applying peremptory legislative and policy directives, in the best interest of the children they are meant to serve,” said Hlophe.

Grabham said they would not back down. “Our aim is to save lives and we will fight for the babies.”

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