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SA Mother Refuses to Hand Back Switched Baby

 
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    Posted: May 28 2014 at 1:20pm
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/28/south-african-mother-switched-baby

South African mother refuses to hand back switched baby

Two children mistakenly swapped at birth four years ago at centre of painful dispute between families over future custody
Baby crawling
The two babies were confused in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg, in 2010 Photograph: Jo Foord/Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley

Two mothers in South Africa have discovered they are raising each other's daughters after they were mistakenly switched at birth in a hospital four years ago.

But while one of the women wants to correct the error and reclaim her biological child, the other is refusing to give back the girl she has raised as her own, posing a huge legal dilemma.

Henk Strydom, a lawyer for one of the mothers, who cannot be identified because of a court order, described the inadvertent swap as a travesty and tragedy that is unlikely to have a happy ending.

Both mothers gave birth at the Tambo Memorial Hospital in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg, on the same day in 2010 and were discharged. "Nobody suspected anything," Strydom said.

But last year one of the mothers, who is 33 and unemployed, sued her ex‑partner for maintenance for her daughter. Strydom continued: "The man denied he was the father. A DNA test was done it was found it was not his baby and not her baby. She was devastated. She didn't know what to do."

Eventually she met the other mother and since last December they have been attending joint counselling sessions, arranged by the hospital. This has included meeting their biological daughters.

Strydom said of his client: "She said there are resemblances to herself. She conveyed to me that it was traumatic. You can see it's not easy for her. She has to care for a child that is not hers on her own while her child is with someone else."

The woman reportedly became unhappy with the process and approached the children's court in a bid to gain custody of her biological child, but the other mother refused. Strydom agreed to represent the woman, who has one elder child, pro bono.

"It's a tragedy. She wants the baby back but it seems the other mother is reluctant. It's four years later: you can understand she doesn't want to give up her baby."

Earlier this week the high court in Pretoria appointed the University of Pretoria's Centre for Child Law to investigate what will now be in the best interests of the children, which is the guiding principle under South African law. It must report back within 90 days.

Strydom added: "Your guess is as good as mine what the court may decide. It's a travesty. How do you rectify it after four years? The longer you wait, the more traumatic it will be. But whatever happens, someone won't be happy."

He said at this point, he and his client do not want to sue the hospital or government health department, which is currently helping with the case and providing counselling.

The Centre for Child Law will now interview the mothers and fathers as well as any other person with a "significant relationship" with either of the girls. The children and mothers will undergo "full and thorough" clinical assessments and may be seen by a psychologist.

Karabo Ngidi, an attorney with the centre, said: "What's going to happen must be in the best interests of the children. Biology is an important aspect but not the only one."

The families are of Zulu ethnicity and so Zulu tradition, culture and customary law will be a factor, she added. It is also still possible the ex-partner of the mother taking legal action could be the biological father of the girl who was switched.

It is not the first child-swap case to come to light in South Africa. In 1995, two mothers were awarded damages after their sons, born in 1989, were accidentally switched at the Johannesburg hospital where they were born.

In 2009 in Oregon in the United States, Dee Ann Angell and Kay Rene Reed discovered that they had been mistakenly mixed up at birth in 1953 when a nurse brought them back from bathing. Last year in Japan a 60-year-old man swapped at birth from his rich parents to a poor family was given compensation. He grew up on welfare and became a truck driver, whereas his biological siblings - and the boy brought up in his place - attended private secondary schools and universities.

Bruce Laing, a clinical psychologist in Johannesburg, said the long-term effects of a baby swap could be "profound", "terrifying" and "incredibly traumatising". He told the Times of South Africa: "An increasingly complicated situation is that some resentment towards a child that is not yours might occur. The parents might always be thinking 'What if?'"

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afrokock View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (3) Thanks(3)   Quote afrokock Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 28 2014 at 1:22pm
Swapped at birth..

Anyone remember that show?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote thewonderfulwa Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 28 2014 at 1:26pm
I know she is attached to the child that she considered hers for all those years but she needs to give him/her back the longer she takes the more damage to everyone involved.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (3) Thanks(3)   Quote Lite Brite Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 28 2014 at 1:31pm
I wouldn't want to give it back either
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (12) Thanks(12)   Quote tatee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 28 2014 at 1:36pm
it must suck being the kid nobody's fighting for.
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Diane (35) View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Diane (35) Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 28 2014 at 1:42pm
Giggles at the welfare principle.

I dont have the answer and im glad im not the judge. But i would want my real child but i wouldnt be able to give up the fake child

Very sad indeed.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Benni Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 28 2014 at 1:44pm
Quite a dilemma

Ethical. Emotional.   Moral

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote sugabanana Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 28 2014 at 1:48pm
So nobody's fighting for the other child??Cry
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Jess Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 28 2014 at 2:04pm
Maybe the other child that everyone is fighting for is prettier/smarter/nicer *kanyeshrug*
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote liesnalibis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 28 2014 at 3:56pm
Originally posted by Jess Jess wrote:

Maybe the other child that everyone is fighting for is prettier/smarter/nicer *kanyeshrug*


Hmmmm.....


When my brother was still a little boy I asked my mom what would she do if she found out he was really someone else's baby and someone else had hers and she said she would keep him.

I can imagine it must be a very difficult thing. I can't believe the other mother is so willing to give up the child she raised for four years. I too hope it's not for superficial reasons.
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