[DEBATE] : 16000 E Cape kids abandoned
okhela at iafrica.com
Mon May 18 06:36:34 BST 2009
Inequality root of this evil . . . . .
16000 E Cape kids abandoned
ECONOMIC turmoil is putting thousands of children on the street and last
year the government had to find homes for more than 16000 Eastern Cape kids,
most of whom were abandoned.
Left in hospitals, on the street or with strangers, these children had to be
placed in foster care and places of safety.
And as the financial crisis worsens this trend may continue, the Department
of Social Development revealed this week.
Community-based organisations and other social welfare stakeholders have
blamed economic uncertainty and poverty for the rise in the numbers of
abandoned children in the province.
These children are brought into the social development system by government
social workers and non-governmental organisations, becoming part of the more
than 2000 children in State-funded children's homes .
Just last week, a week-old baby girl was discovered in East London at South
Street near Fort Hare University's main campus.
The newborn had been wrapped in a plastic bag and shoved under a storage
container at a rubbish dump.
She was treated at Frere Hospital and a foster mother has come forward to
take her in.
Southernwood Christian welfare organisation Christelike Maatskaplike Raad
(CMR) said that while some children were left with family members, many more
were dumped on the street or left with unknown people .
"Most of the time children are abandoned for financial reasons, mostly by
young mothers who do not have the ability to support them both financially
and emotionally," said CMR social worker Magda von Solms.
The organisation, which provides vital welfare and social services to
families and communities in East London, Gonubie, Reeston and Ducats, has
been trying to find the families of two little girls - estimated to be eight
months and a year-and-a- half old - who were abandoned earlier this year .
"The younger one was left by her mother with strangers in February while the
other was dumped at a police station during a busy April day," Von Solms
Saying finances played a critical role in the decision to abandon children,
the Department of Social Development's general manager for social welfare
services, Max Maxhegwana, said: "The most critical reason is that a mother
cannot take care of the child."
Other children, he said, had to be removed from their homes after social
workers identified circumstances of serious neglect or abuse .
"Being HIV-positive also plays a role ," he said, saying that some mothers,
rejected by the fathers of their children, in turn rejected their babies.
East London's Child Welfare Society, which also deals with abandoned
children, said poverty and unwanted pregnancies were pushing up the number
of abandoned children.
"A lack of information and not knowing where they can turn to for help
terrifies vulnerable mothers. They need to understand that there are avenues
of assistance, " acting director Collette Williams said .
East London psychologist Edna Patterson said feelings of inadequacy and
guilt, and lack of support, were mainly responsible for mothers abandoning
"When one knows that they would not be able to provide for their baby they
can be driven by despair to abandon their children," she said, adding that
some of them lived with lifelong shame for having done that.
She said the guilt, shame and knowledge of what they did manifested itself
differently from woman to woman, with some of them turning to drinking,
drugs or other destructive activities, especially in cases where they never
discussed what happened and did not receive counselling for their actions .
Masimanyane Women's Support Group's director, Lesley- Ann Foster, said that
while it was always about money, the reasons ran deeper, into the very
thread of a community .
"Women have not been empowered to make their own decisions. They are not
given a choice on the use of contraceptives, or if they want children at
all," she said. - By NTANDO MAKHUBU
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