Posted by: Andries Louw | 1 April 2009

Taking babies to court

Andiswa on her daddy's lap

Baby Andiswa on her daddy's lap in my car outside the Police station

In about a month’s time my wife will take baby Andiswa to court. Actually she will take her to Child Welfare and the social workers will get a court order to have the now three-month-old baby girl removed from the care of her father so that she can officially be placed in our care as place-of-safety parents. We are still in the process of being approved and will appear before a panel before it becomes official.

We met Andiswa and her parents at Child Welfare about seven weeks ago. They brought her there telling the social workers that they couldn’t care for her anymore. Normally social workers have to remove children from their parents by a court order if the child is being neglected or abused. These parents were bringing their baby to the welfare office out of their own accord!

They didn’t want to give her up for adoption so their remaining options were foster care (two to four years) and place of safety, which is a six month arrangement. The purpose is to allow the parents time to get their act together so they can take the child back.

Because there was no court order however, they have had to make a private arrangement. They took all the relevant documentation to the police and signed an affidavit that they were releasing their baby into our care. The father had lost his job and couldn’t afford the rent anymore. We first tried to convince them to go and live in a shelter while he looks for a job. After a long discussion we agreed that we would take Andiswa for three weeks. That would allow the social workers enough time to find a shelter for mother and baby while daddy would look for a job.

Cecile with Andiswa on the first day we brought her home
Cecile with Andiswa on the first day we brought her home

My wife Cecile would take Andiswa to Child Welfare once a week so that her parents could see her. Three weeks later we gave her back, happy that her parents were now ready to take care of her again.

But the success was short-lived. Just over a week after we returned her, Andiswa’s father called us saying that the mother had disappeared two days earlier. It was Saturday morning and we were just getting ready for our four-year-old daughter’s birthday party. After consulting with the social worker we arranged to meet the father later that afternoon. He was clearly distraught and didn’t have a clue how to care for a baby. Back we went to the police station for another affidavit.

The fact that Andiswa’s mother has since been reported missing changes everything. Now it becomes a matter for the courts, especially as her father still doesn’t want to give her up for adoption. It is amazing how quickly we have formed an emotional bond with this little person. Ironically that is what makes it hard to keep her longer. The longer we keep her the more difficult it becomes to give her back. But somehow we need to create a culture of making our homes places of safety and foster care.

Unaware of all the drama in her little life
Unaware of all the drama in her little life
Baby Andi is lying in her carry-cot on the table next to me while I’m writing this. Her cute baby sounds, fast breathing and involuntary body movements pull the strings of my heart in a tug-of-war away from her parent(s). A few people have said that they admire us for doing it but I’m not writing this to get admiration. Rather I’d like to challenge you to do something to make a difference in the life of a child without a family. Become place-of-safety parents or foster parents or adopt a child. Visit an orphanage.

Taking babies to court might be one of the most significant things we can do to keep them out of court by the time they turn sixteen or twenty.

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Responses

  1. May God bless you!

    Fostering children is a tough undertaking.

  2. what drama. i hope & pray for God’s will to be done there. baby andi needs to be showered with love & healed from that trauma… God bless you for opening your home & your hearts to more of His children. 🙂

  3. whether you want it or not, you have done a thing worthy of admiration – and you have mine.

    i hope to hear more of the story as it unfolds.

    be well, for you are well loved

  4. […] requested she be put into foster care, but did not want to sign her off for adoption. In February she was temporarily entrusted to us under a private arrangement facilitated by the social workers. The plan was to place her with us as “place of […]

  5. I made a correction in my post: We are dealing with Child Welfare and not the Christian Social Services (CSS). The social worker dealing with Andiswa had previously worked for CSS but is now working for Child Welfare. It’s really not about which welfare organisation we are dealing with but I just wanted to make the correction.


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