Swapped babies to remain with families raising them

16 November 2015 - 18:29
By Roxanne Henderson
Baby feet. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock Baby feet. File photo.

Three judges of the Pretoria High Court decided on Monday that two toddlers swapped at birth must remain with the families who have raised them.

After hearing final arguments in the matter on Monday‚ the court ruled that the five-year-old boy and girl are to be considered as having been adopted by the parents who have raised them without them needing to undergo a formal adoption process.

They will continue to have contact with their biological parents.

The children were swapped at a hospital on the East Rand in 2010 and the error was discovered nearly three years later when one father asked for a paternity test when the child's mother claimed maintenance. The results revealed that neither of them were the biological parents of the little boy they thought was theirs.

Professor Ann Skelton of the Centre for Child Law at the University of Pretoria was appointed by the court to investigate and make recommendations on the outcome that would be in the best interests of the children. The court accepted Skelton's recommendations.

Skelton argued that the court should enable the children's "psychological parents" - those who have raised them thus far - to adopt the children without having to go through usual adoption processes.

Three of the four parents agreed with Skelton's recommendations. The father who uncovered the swap said that he wanted his daughter returned to him, but would abide by the court's decision.

This dad had commissioned a psychologist to evaluate the situation and the psychologist's report agreed with Skelton's recommendations. A cultural impact report commissioned by the man was also done‚ but he chose not to rely on it in court.

  • This is not the first child-swap case in South Africa. In 1995, two mothers were awarded damages after their sons, born in 1989, had been swapped at the Johannesburg hospital where they were born.

The Times reported previously that the mothers, who agreed to keep their non-biological sons, were awarded more than R183,000 and R158,000 respectively, which included costs for them to visit their biological children and damages for emotional shock and "psychiatric injury".