Posted by: Andries Louw | 4 July 2009

Signing your child away

Andi sitting for the 1st time

Andiswa sitting for the first time

Wednesday we parked at the Child Welfare office around lunch time. It was cold. I watched as Andiswa’s father grabbed her from my wife’s arms. I saw the lines on the side of his face by his eyes and mouth grow deeper as he stood there, savouring the moment.

He couldn’t take his eyes off his six month old daughter as we walked inside the building. He looked like the proud father of a newborn infant – his body language, the way he held her, the permanent smile on his face. Was he going to take responsibility?

Andiswa, born on Christmas day, is not your typical “foster baby case”. Normally welfare gets a court order to remove a child if the child’s safety is under threat. Andi’s parents brought her to the welfare voluntarily in January and 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 safety” parents, a six month agreement but the process was delayed several times. After she had been with us for 3 weeks, Andi’s birth mother disappeared without a trace. Meanwhile Cecile was taking Andi to the Child Welfare office almost weekly for her father to see her and to discuss the way forward.

As we sat down on Wednesday, Andiswa’s father was trying to feed her with a bottle Cecile had prepared. Occasionally he would converse with his friend in their mother tongue and the social worker with us in Afrikaans. The conversation was almost predictable, Andiswa’s father mumbling along in Nigerian-English about his fruitless efforts to track down the mother.

Understanding about every third word, I could make out that he was now ready for foster care, a two year arrangement. He thought it meant he could get his baby back at any time. The social worker explained that it’s not that simple, that the baby is bonding with her primary caregivers and that the court would act in the best interest of the child when deciding whether she could be returned.

He wanted another week to find the mother before making a decision. The social worker had enough. “I think you should take back your baby and care for her until you can make up your mind”, adding in Afrikaans “This is far too comfortable for him. His child is being cared for very well, there’s no pressure on him. In fact, I don’t even need his permission to place her in foster care.”

In a moment I saw him sign away his child. A quick exchange of words with his friend was followed by “OK, let’s go for open adoption.” Open adoption allows the biological parents some access to the child as determined by the adoptive parents. Eventually he agreed to foster care as a first step.

Cecile put Andi on the table. “Look, she’s sitting!” cried my wife. It was the first time she could actually sit on her own. Out came the cell phone cameras. We celebrated the moment together.

Next week we will go to court to rubber stamp the split second decision of a father to sign his child away. This is leading to adoption. I am excited to become Andi’s new dad, yet I feel like crying. I wanted him to fight for his child, to take her back. We simply have to find ways of empowering parents to be parents.We need to change this nation, one family at a time.



  1. Sounds like coercion. Telling him he had to take the child right there and then. He might not have been in a position to do that at that moment. What happens when the mother comes back? Do you think it’s ok to have her baby without her permission? Why not let her be in foster care.

    HE WANTED ONE MORE WEEK TO FIND THE MOTHER. Shame on you people that’s disgusting. You suck.

  2. This is not an ethical adoption. The father does not feel he has personal power that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want his daughter. He’s dealing with poverty that you can’t possibly imagine. You could also choose to help this familly out rather than take a child that you have no right to. Shame on you if you adopt that baby. Do the right thing. What would Jesus do?

  3. Can you imagine how that poor mother is going to feel when she finds out her baby has been stolen from her? She’s going to completely freak out from grief.



  4. Kim, please read my post again, as well as my earlier post (Taking babies to court) and note the following fatcs:

    1. We are NOT adopting this baby (at least not for now). We will receive her into foster care on Thursday. Read the last sentence of my third last paragraph again. There I said: “Eventually he agreed to foster care as a first step.”

    2. What I didn’t say in my post above was that when the father wanted to have another week to find the mother, my wife and I didn’t have a problem with that.

    3. Since we received Andiswa into our home in February (almost 5 months ago) our intention has been to give these parents a chance to sort themselves out so they could take their baby back. This is still our position. Read my last paragraph again: “I wanted him to fight for his child, to take her back. We simply have to find ways of empowering parents to be parents.”

    4. It was the social worker who applied some pressure on him to make a decision – about foster care, not about adoption! Read my fourth last paragraph again.

    5. The social worker didn’t even need his permission to place the baby in foster care. In fact she could have done that already 4 months ago when the mother went missing.

    6. The reason why she applied some pressure was because after almost 6 months of uncertainty this case was still going nowhere. Every time the father wants another 3 months or another week, time that the social worker didn’t even have to give him in the first place.

    7. To everybody’s surprise the father then said “OK, let’s go for open adoption.”

    8. Above I wrote “Eventually he agreed to foster care as a first step.” What I didn’t say was that the social worker convinced him of foster care after he said “Let’s go for open adoption.”

    9. When Andiswa gets placed into foster care with us on Thursday, the door is still open for her parents (and even her father on his own) to get her back. This is still what we would like to see happen.

    10. Sadly however time is running out very quickly because this baby has been bonding with us as her primary caregivers. If he wants her back, he will have to convince the court not only of his ability to care for her, but also that there is still enough time to bond with him as her primary caregiver.

    I am sorry if the way I wrote the post gave the impression that we are now adopting Andiswa. What I tried to convey here was that when the father realised the reality that foster care does not guarantee the easy return of your baby, he was prepared to sign her off for adoption right there.

    To me it was as if he gave up in that moment. That is why I said in the last paragraph that this is leading to adoption.

    Afterwards I asked the social worker what he has to do to get his child back. She replied that it was very difficult to measure because the court looks at the whole situation and makes a decision based on what they believe to be in the best interest of the child.

    In a few weeks from now we will attend a training session for foster parents arranged by the CSS. I am still hoping and praying to find ways to help this father care for his baby. And I am praying that the mother will be found.

  5. Thank God. Sorry I totally got upset with you guys. I thought the social worker was saying he had to take the baby now or have her adopted.

    Thank you for your kind response!

    I will pray for the parents too.

    Sorry about misunderstanding.

    I don’t read it as him giving up at the last moment, I think he feels bewildered that the mother has disappeared and feels like everyone else is superior to him and knows better. It’s obvious he loves his daughter and doesn’t want to lose her but feels inadequate as a father.

  6. No problem Kim. Sometimes misunderstandings can really come in the way of communication. Thanks for your prayers. I will post more updates about Andiswa as the situation unfolds.

  7. After getting to know some social workers and their work, I realized that we should be very slow to criticize the work of social workers, since it seems very cruel to those who don’t know the long history of why certain processes got put in place, but in the bigger sceme these people is changing lives in a miraculous way, begin their where others seldom or never come.

  8. Thanks Kim for sharing your feelings. It shows how misunderstandings can lead to wrong perceptions.
    I feel so privileged to know Andries and Cecile intimately. I know their hearts and intentions.
    What they are doing for this baby and her parents is the Love of Christ made practical.
    Baie dankie Andries en Cecile!

  9. Social workers are the unsung heroes of society. The more I get to know these dedicated ladies at Child welfare the more my respect for them grows.

  10. 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.

  11. Wow. If there were more people like you in the world, the world would definitely be a better place.
    You are very brave people attempting a very brave thing: to adopt a little baby. That’s almost like getting a baby, but without the physical pain. Yet the challenges of raising this little kid is just as awesome as if it were your own child.
    What you guys are doing is realy a testimony, and it will be a testimony. (Please make your hearts and attitudes ready, because I have a feeling that there will come a point in time where your adoption of Andiswa will get national attention. You guys don’t know it yet but this adoption is going to put you in the spotlight, whether you know it or not. God is going to use it to open ministry doors for you, and bring reconcilliation between blacks and whites in South-Africa. I know all this sounds “grand”, but God is going to honour your decision to “adopt” Andiswa. You will come at a point where you will have to consider whether you have to open your own Adoption agency called Andiswa Adoption Agency. Andiswa will probably help you to run it when she is older!). OK… this sounds very prophetic just put it in the cupboard and store it.
    But who knows? Why CAN’T the future play out like this for you guys? Stranger things have happend.

    Talking about adoption, PLEASE watch the following clip on Youtube about Steven Curtis Chapman, a christian musician that adopted three little Chinese children. This is a very sad but incredibly encouraging story at the same time.
    I just feel to mention this link, because I think at the heart of adoption lies the spirit of love. This we see clearly in that God has adopted us as believers to become his children. Your adoption of Andiniswa is a testimony of how God the Father loves and adopted us. The bible says in Psalm 68:5 that God is a father to the fatherless and a defender of widows. I think if God is foremost a Father and a Defender, then his followers should be of the same attitude. In fact, James 1:27 even states this: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”.
    I pray that you will be a good Father and Mother, and good Defenders of God’s little gift to you, and you will stand strong in your testimony.

    And if any person wants to pick a fight with you and ask “why did you adopt this baby?” then simply say “Becasue Jesus told us to do it! What is Jesus telling YOU to do?”.

    Indeed, what you are doing stirs my heart. What am I doing? What is Jesus requiring me to do?
    Do I have the guts to sacrifice my time, energy, love, resources, peoples’ opinions about me for a little child?

    I salute your courage, and pray for you for strength and wisdom to carry out this great responsibility.

  12. Wes, thanks for your words. I don’t actually feel what we are doing is so amazing. As you pointed out, the Bible is full of God’s heart for widows and orphans so I think caring for children without families should be such a normal part of Christian living.

    Where is the youtube link you referred to?

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