‘Dropping babies and children is a crime: MEC Social Development warns

  • The Western Cape Department of Social Development has warned that ‘dumping’ a baby is a crime.
  • Parents who cannot care for their children are advised to seek help from a clinic or the department.
  • Volunteers are also called upon to be “safety parents”.

The Western Cape Department of Social Development warned on Tuesday that ‘throwing away’ a baby is a crime and urged mothers or parents who are struggling to contact the nearest clinic or department instead to get help.

MEC Social Development Sharna Fernandez also called for volunteers to become “safety parents” for children whose parents or caregivers can no longer cope.

She said that between April 2021 and December 2021, 26 children were abandoned.

Between April 2020 and March 2021, 24 children were abandoned. During the same period the previous year, 47 children had been abandoned.

  • April 2019 – March 2020 (47)
  • April 2020 – March 2021 (24)
  • April 2021 – December 2021 (26)

Not all of these abandoned babies were left on land or in garbage cans.

These figures also included young children abandoned by other caregivers such as grandparents and foster parents.

“We understand that often times the circumstances that lead mothers to dump their babies can be complex, but it’s illegal,” Fernandez said.

Reasons for abandoning a baby or child include:

The biological mother cannot afford to take care of a baby;

Unemployed, homeless, destitute;

No family support system;

Abuse of illegal substances;

Already have several other children;

Psychological disorders;

Judgment by someone or the community if the mother decides to give the baby up for adoption or alternative care;

Adoption may be frowned upon in some cultures and communities; and

Not knowing what to do or which organizations to turn to if they cannot take care of their babies.

Fernandez called on pregnant women unable to care for their babies, to seek help from the nearest clinic or contact the nearest local office of the Ministry of Social Development or a non-profit organization designated by children to talk to a social worker about options.

When a case of child abandonment was reported, the child protection protocol was activated and the matter assigned to a designated social worker for further investigation.

This would include the completion of a safety and risk assessment of the abandoned baby as well as their temporary placement in safe care, pending further statutory processes.

READ | Newborn baby found dead next to rubbish bin in suburban Cape Town

Fernandez said the public could help by apply to become a “safety parent” for children or babies requiring temporary care or in immediate danger.

“In this regard, we call on those who meet the criteria to apply to become safety parents.”

If anyone finds an abandoned baby, they should immediately contact the police or the Department of Social Development.

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Joel C. Hicks