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.
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.
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.
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.