“FAMILIES are the solution, not children’s homes,” Isithembiso Babies Home administrator Carmen Faragher says.
South Africa, which observed Child Protection Week from May 27 to June 2, has an estimated 3.7 million orphans, and the number is increasing according to Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini. Among children under the age of 18, 2011 census data shows that 3.7% of them are orphans, and 22% are either without a mother or father.
But there is a glimmer of hope. Isithembiso, in Walmer, has seen a steady rate of adoptions and children placed in foster care recently. These children have found families around the country and also overseas in places like Finland and Denmark. The babies at the home have been orphaned or abandoned due to HIV/ Aids, domestic abuse, poverty, death of the caregivers and neglect, among other reasons.
“Some of them come from horrible situations,” Faragher said. “Some babies are left at home for days while the mother goes out. Others are abandoned in dumpsters – usually newborns – and found either dead or alive.”
Instead of abandoning a baby, Faragher stresses that there are better options such as dropping the child off at a police station or with a social worker.
Director of MTR Smit Children’s Haven Dr Crystal Watson said tuberculoses is another major killer disease which is leaving children orphaned today. “Then there is also an increase in orphans born with foetal alcohol syndrome, which leaves them unwanted.”
She said that there has been an increase in adoption across the culture line and also the opportunity for gay people to adopt.
“I have no problem with that as I prefer a child to get a lot of love from a family rather than being institutionalised,” Watson said.