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Adoption agency seeks to assist teen mothers


Adoption agency seeks to assist teen mothers

    October 14 2008 at 11:37AM 

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By Lesego Masemola

Help is a phone call away for teenage moms in crisis.

Every day social workers Sazi Ledwaba strive to build the confidence of young mothers in Tshwane and help them to make the right choices.

According to the Gauteng department of education, a total of 666 schoolgirls became pregnant at Tshwane schools between April 2006 and the end of 2007.

These are statistics for pupils in public schools from grade 3 to grade 12 whose condition was reported to the department.

Ledwaba, from Abba Adoptions, said teenage mothers often feel isolated which results in some of them not being able to bond with their children or communicate with their families.

In some instances, mothers go to the extreme of abandoning their babies because they are unable to cope with their environment - school, home, friends and society - due to early pregnancy.

"Some girls throw away their babies because they feel it's the only way out. They feel they do not want to disappoint their parents or be the talk of town because they are pregnant. They are ashamed and afraid of being judged," she said

Ledwaba said it was important that young mothers know that there are options out there, like adoption or foster care.

She said although her organisation specialises in adoption they soon realised that there were a lot teenage mothers who did not want to give up their babies but struggled to cope with their pregnancy because of pressure from society and parents.

"I meet a lot of young people who come here to give up their babies for adoption but first we give them counselling to make sure that adoption is what they want.

"In many cases, the girls see adoption as a way out. In some instances, however, they can keep their babies if they have support which is critical in a young mother's life because she has a child and she is still a child herself," Ledwaba said.

She said that realising the need for such support, the organisation opened House Elizabeth this year, a home for single mothers in Mamelodi West which serves the greater Tshwane area.

She said the home houses girls as young as 15 where they and their babies receive accommodation for two to three months.

Ledwaba said pregnancy in teens takes place unexpectedly; parents are usually overwhelmed and angered by the situation which results in tensions in the home, creating stress for the young mothers.

The home specialises in counselling for the young mother and her family to reunite them.

"Most girls that get pregnant while at school do not tell their parents and parents only find out later - if at all.

When parents find out they usually get angry and forget that the young mother also needs their support.

"Many of the young mothers I meet have not talked to their parents about giving the baby up for adoption; that is why we go through this process with them so that if there is a chance that the family can reconcile and accept the pregnancy then there is no need for adoption," Ledwaba said.

"Through this program we also try to get the father of the baby involved because many girls want to give up the baby without the father's knowledge and the father has a right to know," she added.

Ledwaba said that while the girls are at the home they are involved in group counselling and speak among themselves about their issues and concerns.

This, she said, was important in building the girls self-esteem.

Free medical care, life skills programmes (parenting, HIV and Aids etc), skills development and training is provided and employment possibilities are explored. She said the centre is also used as a drop-in centre for counselling and referrals.

"We all come from different backgrounds and some families, after thorough counselling, see there is no need for the girls to come which is why we have a drop in centre. And in some instances the situation is dire that the girls have to be removed from their home to give parents a chance to cope with the new change of their child having a child," she said.

She said teenage girls needed to know there is help out there and someone to listen to them.

Sazi Ledwaba can be contacted on 078 435 4425 or 012 343 7721.
·  House Elizabeth can be found on 19254 Makgatho Street, section M in Mamelodi West.

2008 Oct 14