“Precious” is safe and sound

Precious (not her real name) was brought into our Sunlight Home by caring Police Station officers.  Precious was estimated to be six months old and was clean and well-dressed by the caring community member who reported to the SAPS.

Precious was very happy with us and engaged readily with our care workers.  This immediate bonding is a sign that she had not emotionally bonded to his previous caregiver.  This first bond between a baby and usually, a mom, is essential for the long term positive emotional development.

The information that we have is that a stranger, carrying Precious, came to a home in the area to ask for a tenant who had vacated the premises.  The stranger asked the landlady to hold the baby as she wanted to go outside for a cigarette.  When the landlady went to look for the stranger a few minutes later, she had disappeared.

The kindly homeowner informed the police but kept Precious, hoping the stranger would return.  When this did not happen, Precious was brought to the Sunlight House after receiving a medico-legal examination and Form 36 allowing for the removal of a child in an emergency situation.  This was her entry into the child protection system.  Precious was referred to the statutory services providers to investigate and find the best possible long term placement for her.

The Childline Gauteng Sunlight House was set up to receive abused, abandoned and neglected after hours to ensure children in life threatening circumstances are given a warm and caring service in this time of trauma.  Approximately 150 children are brought into this service per year and approximately 8 000 children since inception in 1997.  The Unilever, Sunlight Brand funded the opening of the Childline Sunlight House and continues to support the services.

The child protection system is based on the Children’s Act and will require that government statutory services, under the Department of Social Development, investigate the child’s circumstances, seek their biological families, advertise for relatives, open a children’s court enquiry placing the child in temporary care until the final court enquiry when recommendations are made for adoption, foster care, return to family or relative’s care.

The long term impact of abandonment are very serious and includes the following:

  • Difficulty in forming a personal identity – no access to name or nationality of birth
  • A great sense of loss – of family, ancestral information, language / nationality / cultural group, original name and access to biological genetic info and medical conditions
  • A sense of being responsible for the abandonment – “there must be something wrong with me”
  • May impact on the child’s ability to trust, bond, form good relationships
  • May have a long term belief that they are not good enough and will fear rejection for significant others

These difficulties are mitigated by being placed into a caring family, either adoption or foster care.  Counselling when older is helpful but can never change the reality of this grave emotional injury at an early stage of life.

Adoption processes are highly regulated and take from 6 months to 2 years (if there are complications).  The numbers of adoption have decreased due to increased regulations and this delay is not optimal for the important process of bonding with a significant other which is crucial to positive development of the child.  The best practice is to place the child in foster care with the potential adopter, pending the legal processes.


  • 3500 Babies abandoned per year in SA.
  • For every one child found alive two are found dead – 10 500 babies a year.
  • Majority from KZN, Gauteng and EC
  • Dec / Jan period is peak time for abandonment
  • 65% Newborn & of the rest, 90% are under the age of one
  • Highest category of children taken into the SSH in 2019 – this changed from 2018 when it was neglected children.

Thank you for being a caring community and supporting Childline to serve each child in crisis through all our services:  24/7 Toll Free Help Line; Community Counselling & Awareness Raising Programmes; and the Sunlight Safe House for children in life-threatening circumstances.

Be a change-maker and kindly donate via this link: https://www.payfast.co.za/donate/go/childlinegauteng or by means of Bank Account: Childline Gauteng | Bank: First National Bank | Branch: Parktown | Branch Code: 250 455 | Account Number: 503 900 338 23 | Type of Account: Cheque | SWIFT: FIRNZAJJ