However controversial and criticized the idea might be, it’s a necessary alternative needed for parents (or other individuals) who abandon children. Abandonment of children next to roads, in dustbins and public toilets is not uncommon. Even more earth-shattering is the amount of women who resort to having late abortions. Although abortions are legal in South Africa, there are still many communities that chastise the implementation thereof. This stigmatization in turn pushes women with unwanted pregnancies to the edge of illegal – and unsafe – abortions.
Other reasons for the high child-abandonment rates include, but are not limited to, poverty, desperate social conditions (often resulting in gender-based violence) and the high levels of HIV infection. Door of Hope decided to implement the necessary alternative, known as ‘baby bins.’
The bins, located in inner-city Johannesburg, are attached to an outer wall of a building via a hatch, where unwanted children can be left as an alternative to being left in unsafe public spaces. As soon as a baby is placed inside the hatch an alarm is triggered to notify staff members, who respond immediately. There is only one reason for the alarm sounding; a child has been abandoned. The service is available every single day, at any time, and anonymity is ensured.
Door of Hope was established 17 years ago and has helped over one thousand babies, either by caring for them full-time or by finding them adoptive ‘forever’ homes.
Due to little reporting on child abandonment cases, it’s difficult to pin-point the exact extent of the issue. The fact is, however, that child abandonment in South Africa is a major issue that doesn’t appear to be in decline. The only real tracking metric is how many abandoned children are found alive, while fundamentally not considering those that aren’t.
A shocking fact is that abandonment is not listed as a violent crime in South Africa, nor for that matter is it included in crime statistic reports. Abandonment is also not listed as a cause of death in mortuaries, so when an abandoned child is not found, it is simply not accounted for. There is, as such, no correct statistics on exactly how many children die as a result of abandonment.
Door of Hope’s ‘baby bin’ in Johannesburg is located at 48 Hillbrow Street, Berea.