Safe haven offers hope for discarded babies

Henry

A couple’s love for their four biological and three adopted children was the driving force behind their initiative to create a safe haven for discarded babies in Cape Town.

Kim and Wayne Allen realized shortly after the adoption of their last child in 2018 that there are a multitude of children in the country who need permanent and loving families.

However, it was impossible for them to provide for so many children’s lifelong needs alone.

That’s why they set up Tiny Owls Baby Home in Durbanville, a temporary care center for babies waiting to be adopted.

Kim and Wayne started by converting a triple garage into a nursery and by 15 October 2018 they had a baby to care for. Barely two months later, the children’s room reached its capacity when six babies were placed there by social workers to be cared for temporarily, while another couple of parents applied for adoption.

Thanks to this temporary home, 54 babies have been kept safe and cared for for months in the past five years before being adopted.

Juan Beukes, one of the managers of Tiny Owls Baby Home, says babies are placed with them after the police, local hospitals or even mothers contact social workers directly to place the baby in safe care.

“Most of the babies we receive are either abandoned or relinquished due to extreme poverty, drug abuse or rape,” he says.

Research from 2010 indicated that around 3,500 babies are found abandoned or abandoned annually. More than ten years later, this figure has almost tripled.

The babies that arrive at Tiny Owls Baby Home are often no more than a few days old and due to the difficult circumstances in which they were born, some babies have ailments or trauma that require special medical attention.

However, Tiny Owls Baby Home also helps with these kinds of needs by getting physiotherapists and occupational therapists to examine the babies’ physical and emotional health.

“Where necessary, we get specialized pediatric biokineticians to ensure that their milestones are reached and babies receive therapy to correct problem aspects,” says Beukes.

He says a baby who was in Tiny Owls Baby Home’s care is no longer considered someone with “special needs”, due to the early intervention by therapists. When babies are placed in this category, their chances of adoption are significantly less.

Due to Tiny Owls Baby Home’s limited capacity, they can only take in about ten babies to care for each year. A group of nine women, divided into three teams, work day and night to look after the babies. These babies often stay here for up to six months before being adopted.

However, according to Beukes, Tiny Owls Baby Home in no way deals with the adoptions of the babies in their care.

“We work together with various welfare organizations such as Norsa and social workers from Abba (specialist adoption and social services) and Pro Care’s adoption unit,” he says.

“The adoptions are therefore handled by these registered organizations and the process is very careful and intensive.”

A helping hand

Tiny Owls Baby Home often makes use of volunteers, but even this process is done carefully. This is because it is illegal for volunteers to help at facilities like this if they intend to adopt a baby there.

“It becomes ‘baby shopping‘ and is completely illegal,” warns Beukes.

However, he says members of the public can lend a hand in other ways. Learners and students regularly complete their community projects by collecting diapers and other supplies for Tiny Owls Baby Home.

Yet even the smallest contribution helps drive Tiny Owls Baby Home’s mission.

“It is not always necessary to donate a large amount of money, even interaction on our Facebook page helps to get the word out there.”

Kim, who acts as CEO of Tiny Owls Baby Home, and Wayne, who handles the financial administration of the facilities, both serve on the board of Chanan54, a non-profit organization serving the orphaned and vulnerable children of South Africa. through advocacy and funding.