Shockingly large number of SA children are abandoned

More than 1 000 children in South Africa have been abandoned by their parents over the past two years. The shocking data was revealed by the Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu in response to a parliamentary question this week.

The minister said in the period from April 2019 to March 2020, a total of 589 children were reported abandoned, while from April 2020 to March 2021, a total of 435 kids were abandoned.

“The main reasons for child abandonment in the Republic are physio-economic challenges, family breakdowns and lack of family support.

“A total amount of R50 331 000 is allocated to the national department’s unit dealing with children services, inclusive of child abandonment for this finan-
cial year 2022/2023,” Zulu said.

Experts say abandoned children often become adults with identity issues, no sense of belonging, mental health struggles and some turn to drugs.

TLC Children’s home MD Pippa Jarvis said their non-governmental organisation was established in 1993 and seldom has space for more children as there are intakes throughout the year.

“We are taking care of 35 children now, 25 of them are under seven and 10 years old and are school goers. After they are registered into our system, we follow a trauma informed care model aimed at trying to heal the damage caused by the separation of an infant from its mother.

“Abandonment is a crime, and it is rare to find the families of abandoned children. When it is time to leave our facility to navigate life, the different languages, cultural practices, it becomes difficult for them because they have very little exposure to their African cultures.

We send them from the only home they have known and expect them not to turn to crime, drugs and have mental health issues,” said Jarvis.

“A child who grew up in our facility now works here as a logistics manager. We encourage the children to live by our motto of being leaders, servants and friends. We teach them about kindness and we try to model these precepts and use daily teachable moments to instil in them love for each other and the environment.

“Many believe an institutional upbringing for their children is better than what they can offer when in truth children are desperate to belong,” she said.

“Our critical shortfall is related to the cost of living; we cannot put petrol in our vehicles to get kids to school. We cannot pay Eskom and we are battling to cover the basics because of increased prices on everything and the slow adoption process.

“The departments involved unfortunately delay the process, which demotivates the adopters because they want to build a family while the child is still an infant,” said Jarvis.

Clinical psychologist Nozibusiso Nyawose said South African socio-economic standards have contributed to the rise in poverty, making it impossible for most mothers, especially young mothers, to cope and they decide to abandon their children.

“Not having proper family planning or resources for family planning is also a huge contributor to child abandonment.

“These children who grow up at children’s homes may not receive optimal nurturing, attention, love, validation and emotional regulations, which predisposes them to disorders such as attachment disorders or personality conditions.”

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