Child abandonment in South Africa: What options do you have if you’re not ready to be a mother?

Two recent reports have come out of Cape Town of infants dumped on the side of the road. The most recent newborn unfortunately died, while the other survived, and the person who found him took him to Mowbray Maternity Hospital.

The issue of child abandonment in South Africa is complex, and the statistics the Department of Social Development has on the crisis do not correlate with those of NGOs and the media.

In May 2020, both The Citizen and IOL reported that child abandonment has spiked during the lockdown. In August, News 24 released a report that 118 newborns were abandoned in Gauteng since the beginning of 2020. This is according to the Department of Health.

The Department of Social Development debunked the articles that reported an increase in child abandonment cases, stating that “the Department has no record of the increase of cases in child abandonment during the lockdown period. Contrary to these figures, the Department has to date received 9 cases of child abandonment that were reported by provinces between March and April this year.”

What leads women to abandon children?

In 2014, the National Adoption Coalition released a Fact Sheet on Child Abandonment Research in South Africa that noted the below reasons as motivations to abandon an infant:

  • Poverty
  • High levels of violence (gender-based violence and specifically rape)
  • Gender inequality
  • High levels of HIV/AIDS
  • Diminishing family support

With the influence of these factors, women might believe that abandoning their children is their only option.

What options do women have if they are not ready to be mothers?


“One of the alternative care options that the Department renders to children in need of protection, including abandoned children, is adoption which gives them permanent or stable family life,” says the Department of Social Development.

ALSO SEE: Adoption in South Africa | Everything you need to know

Women can pursue adoption by getting in touch with a social worker that is registered with the South African Council for Social Service Professionals (SACSSP). Click here to search if a professional is on the SACSSPs register.


According to the Zululand Observer, there has been a spike in illegal abortions during the lockdown. Women know that terminating an unwanted pregnancy is an option, but shame leads them to explore riskier routes. Pregnancy termination is legal in this country but continues to be a taboo subject, and women are usually shunned from society or shamed for choosing to terminate.

Women can go to a local clinic to seek assistance with safe pregnancy termination or go to institutions such as Marie Stopes, which, unfortunately, charge for safe abortions.

This is unfortunate for many women who cannot afford to pay these fees and end up going to back-rooms with fake doctors who charge much less.

Safe Havens

Organizations such as Door of Hope knows what a struggle it is for women who have real fears of becoming mothers. They started an initiative called the “Baby Box” where mothers can leave children in their care. They have helped 232 children through this initiative, and currently have 65 children in their care. They also manage adoption processes for parents and have successfully completed the adoption of 756 children.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *