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A safe place for unwanted babies | News

Melanie Turner with the Domino Babies Home's baby safe. This is one of two baby safes PHOTO: Rianette Cluley/Northglen News

HUNDREDS of newborn babies are abandoned in ditches, open fields or thrown down toilets throughout the country annually often by desperate mothers who think they have no alternative.

The Zululand Observer has reported on a number of such abandonments with the latest, a three-day old girl, found dumped in a pit latrine in Nzalabuntu Reserve last month.

In an effort to give these babies a chance in life, a number of private individuals have started homes that shelter and care for ‘unwanted’ babies while searching for adoptive parents.

The Peace Agency, an NGO based in uMhlanga, started the baby house model in 2010, catering for four babies at a time. This model has since been used to assist other crisis care parents in setting up safe care facilities.

Babies are given the best possible care while at the homes, and the best-suited families are found for them.

Ruth Stapleton, Programme Manager for The Peace Agency (, said some of the babies are adopted locally, although there is also international interest.

However, the message they are trying to get across is that adoption should not be viewed as a ‘Plan B’.

‘Adoption is not just for couples suffering from infertility, but should be considered by all families, with or without biological children,’ explained Stapleton.

‘We advocate strongly for more children to be adopted locally.’

Baby safe device

Stapleton said that, although there are no official statistics, the unofficial guess is that 3 500 babies are abandoned every year in South Africa.

To give desperate mothers an alternative option, The Door of Hope in Johannesburg installed a baby safe drop box which proved successful. Bethany Arndt, director of Cape Town-based NGO, Baby Safe (, picked up on this and she and another interested friend, got a mechanical engineer to develop the idea, creating the Baby Safe.

‘We would offer an anonymous alternative to infanticide. Our idea was to make a device that would be safe, low cost, and easily reproducible,’ said Arndt.

The safe has a foam cushion mattress and, once a baby is deposited inside anonymously and the outer door closed, it locks preventing anyone accessing the baby from outside.

An alarm is immediately triggered to three cellphone numbers. The inner door is then opened and the baby retrieved.

There are eight baby safes operating in South Africa, two of which have been installed at homes in North Durban; The Peace Agency’s uMhlanga Baby House as well as The Domino Foundation’s baby home.

Melanie Turner, project leader for The Domino Foundation, said the safe had not been used to date.

‘An awareness campaign in the right areas needs to be implemented.’

Stapleton agreed saying the success of the safe depends on the location, as well as the guarantee of anonymity for the ‘abandoning party’.

However, the safes are there only as a last option.

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