THE babies at the AAA Safehouse in Westering come through the front door in different ways.
Some are rescued after being thrown away like rubbish, tied up in plastic bags. Some are left in cupboards, in public toilets, or at the hospital.
Others are brought in by crying teenagers, some still clutching the scars from their caesarean sections.
But wherever they came from, Debbie Devoy and her volunteers take them and care for them as if they were their own.
“We find a lot of teenage mommies will abandon their children. I think it is because these children are not conceived in love. They are conceived because of rape, because of drug or alcohol abuse.
“Some of the moms do not have the capacity to take a decision that would be in the best interest of their child,” Devoy said. “My motto is that every little body is somebody.”
Between 2010 and last year, Eastern Cape children’s courts finalised 1508 adoptions by South African parents, while 60 children were adopted by families outside South Africa. More than 21000 children were placed in foster care and 17785 were removed from parental homes.
Of these children, 213 were from Nelson Mandela Bay, according to the Health Department’s annual report.
The department, however, identified 23661 as orphaned or vulnerable.
Devoy said not all teenagers abandoned their babies. “Sometimes you get teenagers coming here, showing great strength of character.
“Some bring them here sobbing, just wanting to see where the child is going to. Some are still breastfeeding when they bring their child here.
“We just hold them and let them cry. We had a girl here who was raped by five men and gave her child up for adoption. She brought the baby here herself.”
Babies that have been given up for adoption are kept at AAA Safehouse for the 60-day period a mom has, according to law, to change her mind.
In some cases, however, the adoption process gets snagged and Devoy says she had four children with her for more than two years. “Their files got lost. Things went wrong,” she said.
According to the Health Systems Trust, about 30 babies are left in state hospitals in the province each year.
Jean Downey, from Uitenhage’s New Life Crisis Pregnancy Centre, said they also asked desperate teenagers to consider giving their children up for adoption.
“When you’re in a crisis you don’t always realise what you have around you and who can assist you.”
She said they would advise teens to consider adoption. “We focus on family and the need for family – if you have a healthy mom, you will have a healthy family and a healthy nation.”