Baby was left for dead. Now everyone wants to make her theirs
Hundreds want to adopt the baby rescued from a drain, but there are half a million other babies waiting for a home
Cocooned in an incubator in a Durban hospital, baby Sibanisethu – who was plucked from a stormwater drain last week – is oblivious that she has become SA’s poster child for abandoned newborns.
It’s been just over a week since the baby girl’s dramatic rescue from a drainpipe in Newlands East, where her 27-year-old mother allegedly discarded her.
The woman was arrested on a charge of attempted murder while in hospital on Tuesday and is now under police guard. She is expected to appear in court soon.
Baby Sibanisethu’s story has not only touched South Africans, but also people abroad, with hundreds of offers to adopt her.
Her plight has also put a spotlight on the matter of abandoned newborns in SA, which is fast becoming a common occurrence.
Open Arms SA – an online help desk for pregnant girls and women who are unable to keep their babies – has been inundated with e-mails and phone calls from people who want to adopt the child.
The help desk – a project of Isaiah 54, a Durban home that cares for abandoned children – made a public appeal on its Facebook page for people to refrain from asking to visit the baby in hospital or to adopt her.
“The past few days have been hectic with messages and calls from people that want to adopt her. Please know that she is NOT up for adoption and there is not a waiting list just in case she will as she might never go up for adoption,” the post reads.
“In South Africa there are +-500,000 children that could benefit from adoption. So if you would like to adopt please contact your local child welfare and ask if they can, or which closest office does adoption, or see a private social worker or agency.”
Glynnis Dauth, who manages Isaiah 54, said they had received more than 500 requests to adopt the baby.
“People are acting on their emotions. They all want to help, but they don’t realise there is a process to follow.
“We don’t have access to the baby, but we know that she is doing well.”
Jillian Marie, from Virginia in the US, was so touched by a story on abandoned babies in the Sunday Times this week that she embarked on a quest to find and adopt baby Sibanisethu, whose name means “our ray of light”.
“My husband and I are just learning about this desperate situation taking place in South Africa, from Sibanisethu’s story.
“One of the reasons I thought it would be wonderful to bring the baby into our family is because we have a large community of South African friends here in Virginia of all places, who could be a huge part of her life.”
But she now understands that SA has processes in place when it comes to abandoned babies and their adoption.
The rescue of baby Sibanisethu points to a distressing practice of abandoning newborns.
A national child homicide study by the Gender and Health Research Unit of the Medical Research Council (MRC), published in 2016, found that a child born in SA is at the highest risk of being killed during the first six days of its life.
Youandi Gilain, founder of Open Arms SA, said the lack of support, the fear of being judged at clinics and hospitals, and cultural beliefs were driving more young women to give up their babies.
“Often sex workers are also forced to get rid of their babies by pimps or pimps take the babies themselves and dump them.
“What is important to know is that when a baby is found abandoned, they will not go straight for adoption,” she said.
According to Gilain the baby is usually admitted to hospital and after being given a clean bill of health, handed over to a social worker.
“The police will do their investigations and so will the social workers. They will try to locate family to find out the situation and if they are able to care for the baby.
“If they are not found or not willing to care for the baby, only then will the baby become adoptable.”
Gilain said the process usually took about a year.
“All of the children that have been abandoned and were placed in our care have been adopted in amazing families in SA, but also overseas in countries like Canada, Denmark and the UK,” she said.