State's sad roll call of children trying to find their dads

31 October 2017 - 12:25 By Kgaugelo Masweneng
Father and children playing on the beach at sunset.
Father and children playing on the beach at sunset.
Image: Tatiana Kostareva/ 123rf.com

While a social media campaign continues to name and shame absent fathers who do not pay maintenance for their offspring‚ the Gauteng department of social development is trying to track down the biological fathers of more than 600 children‚ some of whom may not even be aware that they are fathers yet.

In an advert that listed 776 children for purposes of placing them in foster care in case their biological families do not come forward‚ the majority were trying to trace biological fathers‚ and only a few the mother.

Xaba Mbangwa‚ spokesperson for the department of social development‚ said that if the department fails to locate the biological families‚ the children will be placed in foster care or be given up for adoption.

 

“As the department‚ we are the custodians of children. As soon as a child is without a parent‚ we take parentship. Some of the children on the list have mothers‚ but after identifying that the mother is an unsuitable parent‚ we then continue the search of the father.

“The opposite is also the case. We look for fathers because we want to give each parent a fair chance to come forward. Currently the children are in the care of government‚ at child and youth care centres where they stay from day one till they are 18 years of age.” said Mbangwa.

The children listed in the advert were mostly born in the 2000s‚ making them younger than 18 years of age. In some cases‚ the department was looking for foster-care placement for the children concerned.

 

According to Chriselda Bunu‚ adoption supervisor at Johannesburg Child Welfare‚ sometimes mothers don’t know the full names of the father‚ making it difficult to trace them.

“What we often find‚ is that the mother fell pregnant after a one-night stand‚ and does not know the full name of the father – or she knows him‚ but he either denied [being the father] or wanted the child to be aborted. So it’s often very difficult to trace the fathers – it becomes a serious challenge‚ because you don’t have much to work with‚” said Bunu.

In her view‚ fewer people are adopting lately because of the economic pinch: “People feel that adoption is a long process‚ so they just don’t do it. There is also a major decline in adoptions – people are thinking twice before adding to their families‚ because of the tough economic times.”

Pamela Wilson‚ social work manager at Impilo Child Protection and Adoption‚ said that sometimes the fathers don’t even know about their children.

“Though at times the fathers run away from their responsibilities‚ often they don’t even know they have a child. Generally‚ most men are not willing to take responsibility for their children – the absence of fathers is a huge problem in society. Adoption is another way of becoming a family‚ and it can be a wonderful experience‚” Wilson added.

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