More kids abandoned since lockdown

Children's organisation Door of Hope says it and associate facilities have received 63 abandoned babies since the beginning of national lockdown in March. / INSTAGRAM
Children's organisation Door of Hope says it and associate facilities have received 63 abandoned babies since the beginning of national lockdown in March. / INSTAGRAM

There is a rise in the number of babies abandoned by their mothers since the lockdown began in March.

The Door of Hope, a children's organisation in Berea, Johannesburg, received 10 babies - five from hospitals, three from police, and one through their baby box.

With 73 babies currently in their care, the organisation says it anticipates the number of abandoned babies will increase during the Covid-19 global pandemic.

"Abandonment of babies in South Africa is a common occurrence," said the organisation's operations director Nadene Grabham.

"It is actually a pandemic."

Door of Hope was established in 1999 after an abandoned baby that was found on the Queen Elizabeth bridge died. Under the leadership of Pastor Cheryl Allen, the Berea Baptist Church came up with the idea of building a "baby box" for mothers to safely hand over unwanted babies.

In a survey compiled by Door of Hope on June 3, there are 63 babies that have been received by the 17 baby homes they represent since the lockdown began. At least 30 of these were abandoned.

According to the National Adoption Coalition, it is estimated that about 3,500 children are abandoned on an annual basis. According to the coalition's Impilo fact sheet, 70% of these abandonments are unsafe and many babies are never found.

Babies placed in Door of Hope's care come from hospitals, other child protection organisations and the police.

"We also get mommys who ring our door bell and sign consent for adoption. We prefer it any way that the babies come into our care instead of abandonment" said Grabham.

The organisation has taken in 1,712 babies since it was founded, and only 229 of the children came through the baby box.

"Looking after 73 babies is an expensive exercise. We rely on donations. Monthly needs consist of all baby supplies including warm clothes as we approach winter.

"We managed to supply staff with face masks but we are always in need of cleaning products and sanitisers," she said.

The department of social development has called on NGOs to report cases of child abandonment that occur during this time, stating that it has only received nine cases of child abandonment that were reported by provinces between March and April. No reports were received from NGOs for the same period.

Door of Hope has three baby houses for up to 76 babies. The organisation is in the process of building a children's village for unadoptable children and those who don't have families.

Hopes are high that the village, which will be accommodating between 250 and 300 children, will be finished soon amid Covid-19 delays.

"Our very first baby, Georgina, is now 22 years old and she lives in the US. It is nice to see how the babies have grown up and this honours the staff that cares for them. Our staff leave their children to care for the babies here. This is a labour of love," said Grabham.

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