It is said that we are forgiven many things, but not the harm we cause a child. The vulnerability and helplessness of children is, therefore, a reality we cannot ignore.
According to Captain Juanita Coetzer, communications officer for the Boksburg North SAPS, many babies are not being taken care of in Boksburg.
In her opinion, one case of neglect or abandonment is one too many.
Coetzer said two newborn babies, separately wrapped in plastic bags, possibly twins, were found at the Rooikraal dump site, in Dawn Park on March 5.
Two dockets of concealment of birth were opened and postmortems will be conducted.
“We want to believe that Boksburg is beautiful and a safe place for children, but if you look a little closer you will find babies dumped, left for dead, just around the corner,” Coetzer said.
Luckily, there are many beacons of light to assist those who cannot fend for themselves.
Amanda Coetzee and Pastor Joey Nel are two such beacons.
Coetzee, a child protection officer and commissioner of oaths, and Nel run the Kuselo Child and Youth Care Services Window of Hope project and together they make a powerful team which has been working wonders in the Boksburg North community since October, last year.
Kuselo Window of Hope provides a safe house where abandoned and neglected children are not just provided with basic needs, but also have the opportunity to play outside, interact with other children and, most importantly, are shown the necessary love and affection every child yearns for.
To provide hope and support to mothers who are not able to care for their babies, Kuselo has a Baby Saver Bin set inside a bright pink wall.
Desperate mothers can place their babies in the bin. The bin has a sensor which triggers an alarm as soon as it is opened, to alert staff that a baby is possibly being deposited into the bin.
As soon as weight is placed on the soft pink mattress inside the bin, the alarm sounds a different tone, signalling the fact that a baby is probably in the bin.
Once the latch is closed it cannot be opened again.
“The reason most mothers give their babies up is pure poverty. Many also have drug addictions and know they are not able to look after their baby,” said Coetzee.
“There are also many cases where the baby is a result of a rape,” said Coetzee.
She added that there are many arguments for and against the Baby Saver Bin, but Coetzee believes it is the most humane option for desperate moms.
“We find abandoned babies all over Boksburg ever day – in the trash, in the street and in the lake,” Coetzee said.
“When they are left in plastic bags we are mostly unable to save them. This is why the Baby Saver Bin is the best option,” said Coetzee.
“When a child is given up voluntarily, there are no questions asked and no judgement given.”
The first baby was placed into the Baby Saver Bin on February 20, in the middle of the day. The baby was only 13 days old, and the mother also left the clinic card.
“The baby was nicely dressed, clean and well looked after – the mother obviously had the child’s best interests at heart,” said Coetzee.
After a baby is placed in the care of Kuselo Window of Hope the necessary procedures are followed.
The baby is immediately taken to a hospital and the SAPS and local child protection services are informed.
“A social worker is appointed as the child’s caseworker. Within the first 30 to 90 days, the police have to determine whether the child has really been abandoned.
“During that time, the child is placed into our care and it is then decided whether the child is going to be placed in another place of safety or is going to a children’s home where they can be placed up for adoption, and so forth,” said Coetzee.
Coetzee is a mother herself and feels very strongly about keeping children safe.
She assists the police in removing children from unsafe environments and placing them in foster care or a place of safety.
“My passion started years ago when I had to fight personal battles in my life – I know about abuse and suffering.
“I took all of my personal experiences and put these into my line of work so that I can help others.”
According to Coetzee, it is vital for the community to realise they are responsible for the vulnerable children around them.
“According to the law, you have a moral obligation to report any child abuse or suspicion of child abuse.
“It is your right to phone any police station and report any suspicion of child abuse.
“Ninety-seven per cent of child rape is committed by family members so be careful who you trust your children with.
“People need to be more vigilant with their children – inspect your child, look for bruises or suspicious marks and, most importantly, listen to your child.
“If your child says this person is hurting me or I don’t want to stay here, listen as they are saying this for a reason,” said Coetzee.
Coetzee assists the Boksburg North SAPS with child protection cases on a regular basis.
At 7.45pm on February 26, a man brought an abandoned baby to the Boksburg North Police Station, said Capt Coetzer.
She then arranged a place of safety for the child by phoning Coetzee who immediately came to collect the child, complete the necessary documents and take the child to the hospital.
“Amanda gets things done – she is always ready to help when it comes to children,” said Coetzer.
According to Coetzer, the abandonment of children, especially babies, is a serious problem in the Boksburg North policing precinct and all efforts are being made by the police and the community to address this scourge.
In need of a vehicle
Kuselo Window of Hope is an NPO that leans on the community for support. Any donations are welcome. Coetzee and her team are fighting the battle of keeping children safe one day at a time – on foot.
Kuselo does not have a vehicle, and the children are taken to hospital, court and the safe house on foot.
Anyone who is able to help with wheels of any kind or donations of funds or food and other necessities can contact Coetzee on 072 512 7227.
“Members of the community are more than welcome to visit the safe house to see what the donations are used for.
“It is important to make an appointment as the children need to be protected and not exposed to too many people from the public,” said Coetzee.
“We would like to thank all our sponsors and everyone in the community who has helped us so far.”