Child Protection Week 2017 (27 May – 2 June 2017)
The National Adoption Coalition of SA (NACSA) has launched new research into the incidence of child abandonment and a new communication campaign to address this ongoing social challenge. The initiative was announced on 23 May 2017 at the Princess Alice Home in Johannesburg ahead of Child Protection Week.
A total of 26 organisations representing 33 NGO-run Child and Youth Care Centres (CYCC) took part in the research, which equates to 10% of registered CYCCs in South Africa. The research found that the number of abandoned children has declined in these centres especially in Gauteng and KZN, however, the number of anonymous abandonments appears to be increasing.
Child abandonment has declined slightly
“The research shows that child abandonment has declined slightly, however, the number of anonymous abandonments has increased which means that there is very little chance of these children ever being reunited with their biological families. This highlights the continued importance of child protection strategies such as adoption. Sadly, the number of adoptions remains extremely low in South Africa, with only 1349 adoptions taking place in 2016/2017,” according to Katinka Pieterse, Chair of NACSA.
Reasons cited by child protection officers for the increase in anonymous abandonment include a lack of support or social services for foreign mothers in the government departments of Justice, Home Affairs, Health, Police Services and Social Development. Another reason given is that hospitals have significantly improved their security and protocols around childbirth in South Africa, making anonymous safe abandonment in hospitals unlikely.
The research has prompted the development of a new awareness campaign under NACSA’s crisis pregnancy brand, ‘Choose to Care’.
‘Choose to Care’
According to Dee Blackie, campaign coordinator and child protection activist: “There were three major insights that led to the development of this campaign. The first was research conducted in 2013 by Luke Lamprecht and Sheri Errington which mapped the sites where the bodies of ‘discarded and potential children’ have been found across Gauteng, thought to be the result of late abortions. The majority of the babies were found to have been born at over 26 weeks in-utero and could thus have been viable births. The second is the fact that many babies are abandoned very close to ‘places of safety’ that can help these desperate mothers, but they often don’t know that they exist or where to find them. And finally, the fact that research in 2012 estimated that of the 200 abandoned babies found monthly in Johannesburg, only 60 survive.”
The campaign, developed by Lesoba Difference, uses the creative concept of remembrance crosses one sees next to South African roads, marking the spot where a loved one passed away due to a road accident. Posters depicting a tombstone with the statistic that two out of three abandoned babies die will be placed in areas where babies have been abandoned. The posters not only highlight the danger of child abandonment. but also guide anyone experiencing a crisis pregnancy to a nearby place of safety or baby home that can assist them. Contact details for the NACSA crisis pregnancy support centre are also highlighted to ensure that help can be found.
An increase in the amount of premature and severely disabled abandoned children
“A major concern is that we are seeing an increase in the amount of premature and severely disabled abandoned children. Child protection officers that I have interviewed believe that this is associated with late abortion, in the third trimester, and the fact that pregnant mothers are not appropriately cared for, or educated about the risk of bad nutrition and the consumption of drugs and alcohol whilst pregnant. Research conducted by UNICEF in 2013 found that the number of disabled children in child and youth care centres is three times that of our general childhood population in South Africa. Not only are these children abandoned, but they must then contend with a disability or disorder that will impact them for the rest of their lives,” notes Blackie.
The campaign hopes to continue raising awareness for child abandonment in South Africa as well as providing support to mothers experiencing a crisis pregnancy. “The research, although limited, is also a very important step in starting to take responsibility for our abandoned children in South Africa. We hope that more places of safety and child and youth care centres will start to keep and share statistics in both the NGO and government sectors as this will improve our understanding and ability to address this difficult social challenge moving forward,” says NACSA Chair, Katinka Pieterse.
The National Adoption Coalition of South Africa is an NGO that represents the child protection community, including social workers, crisis pregnancy homes, child and youth care centres, places of safety and adoption. Its vision is to unify and empower our communities and society, to create positive and permanent change in the lives of our children.