Answer to a question from a reader

How can I register the birth of an abandoned baby?

The short answer

You may need legal assistance.

The whole question

I am a foster mother. Two years ago, the local social workers asked me to take in another abandoned baby. We have grown to love the baby boy and we are hoping to adopt him. However, my social worker is struggling to get proof of birth from the hospital where he was born and wants to throw in the towel. Home Affairs said they can't do anything without proof of birth.

The long answer

If the social worker has given up hope of getting proof of birth from the hospital the baby was born in, it may well be that the hospital did not keep a proper record, but this same kind of situation has come up repeatedly with Home Affairs refusing to issue a birth certificate for abandoned babies.

In 2018 Lawyers for Human Rights took up the case of a baby girl called Senelile, whose foster parents could not adopt her because Home Affairs refused to issue a birth certificate without proof of birth.

The Pretoria Children’s Court issued an order compelling Home Affairs to register the baby girl. 

Lawyers for Human Rights noted that they were representing several other abandoned children whom Home Affairs was refusing to register. They said that this refusal by Home Affairs violated the children’s constitutional rights to a name and a nationality from birth (Section 28 of the Bill of Rights).

The victory in the Pretoria Children’s Court meant that Senelile’s foster parents could go ahead and adopt her.

If Home Affairs is still refusing to register abandoned children in 2020, it is clear that it has not instructed its local offices to obey the legal order of 2018.

Since Lawyers for Human Rights has a lot of experience in dealing with Home Affairs, you could approach them for advice and assistance. They have a Statelessness Unit which deals with the problems you are experiencing.  

To get in touch with the Statelessness Unit, email Liesl Muller (Unit Manager) or call the Johannesburg LHR office on 011 339 1960.

The Statelessness Unit provides legal advice in both the Pretoria and Johannesburg law clinics.

Answered on Dec. 1, 2020, 11 a.m.

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