Each of the baby boys and girls, who had been abandoned, had a sad tale to tell. Some were abandoned at the hospitals after birth, while others were simply left on the streets.
A few were left at baby bins outside the gates of organisations and others in parks in and around the city. One little girl was left in the veld after being born. The court was also told about twins who were left on the streets of Joburg soon after birth. They have severe cerebral palsy.
But good news for the children is that Home Affairs has agreed to register the 33 South African children who were on the brink of not being considered as a national by any state.
The children had been on a waiting list for 18 months to get birth certificates. In that time, Home Affairs said it had a policy allowing only two children to be registered by social workers each month. This in turn caused a backlog for the babies, whose futures hung in the balance until Lawyers for Human Rights and Abba Specialist Adoption Services presented their plight to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.
Without birth certificates, the children’s chances of being adopted decreased. In the process, they missed out on forming a bond with a primary caregiver, Rene Ferreira of Abba said.
The predicament also increased the child’s chance of becoming stateless.
Ferreira said in court papers that each of these children was particularly vulnerable as they were in need of care. The fact that their births hadn’t been registered with the department was obviously beyond their control.
While the social worker who was appointed to act on their behalf did all she could to try to obtain birth certificates, Home Affairs said she could apply for only two a month, as they couldn’t cope with more applications. This would mean that it would take about 68 weeks for all to be registered, while the list of abandoned babies grew by the day.
“This backlog will continue to pre- judice all similarly placed children,” Ferreira said.
But the bigger picture of issuing birth certificates to children in this position and measures to streamline the process will be addressed during another application before court, which is due to be heard later. Ferreira said a birth certificate was crucial to the adoption process. Most adoptive parents prefer to adopt shortly after birth.
During the time spent waiting for a birth certificate and the finalisation of the adoption, the child is placed in a childcare centre. In some of these facilities, there’s one caretaker at night to look after 12 children.
They don’t get the emotional care which they would with adoptive parents. Research showed that children separated from a primary caregiver during the early development stage of 0 to two years don’t have their early emotional and physical developmental needs met and experience problems with bonding.
Home Affairs meanwhile agreed to settle the legal dispute and to register the 33 babies. This agreement was made an order of court.