Kanga Moms

By Nicolette Ferreira.

Kanga MomWhat?! Does Erica have a baby? When did this happen? She wasn’t pregnant a week ago? I am staring at Erica who has the tiniest baby strapped securely to her chest.

Erica could probably read my mind, as she came over and assured me that it was not her baby. “I’m a Kanga Mom,” she said.

A what?

The Expectant Mother’s Guide interviewed Erica Neser and Rika Labuschaigne to find out what their roles as Kanga Moms entail.

Erica Neser:  A Kanga Mom is an informal name for ‘Temporary Safe Care Parent’ – someone who takes babies into temporary foster care before they are adopted. Kanga Moms are screened by social workers before being registered as such.

Rika Labuschaigne: A Kanga Mom creates a temporary place of safety for a baby whose biological parents signed consent for adoption.  On average, the time frame in which a Kanga Mom must take care of a baby can range anything from two to six months.

What prompted you to become a Kanga Mom?

“…when I was a little girl, I wished that someone would leave a baby on my doorstep!”

Erica Neser: I have always loved newborn babies, and when I was a little girl, I wished that someone would leave a baby on my doorstep! This is the closest I can get to make that wish come true. I experience it as a calling.

Rika Labuschaigne: After my three grown-up children left home, I started helping as a volunteer at Ubuntu Home of Safety during my spare time. I could see the need for people to give love to these babies in a safe and stable place. Social workers at the Ubuntu Home helped me to get screened and approved as a Kanga Mom.

What have been the greatest challenges in being a Kanga Mom?

“As a Kanga mum, we have no say about whether the biological mother decides to keep the baby or whether it goes to another family – we have to let the baby go and learn to accept it.”

Erica Neser: For me, there is no single great challenge, but many smaller ones: sleepless nights, meeting the needs of my own kids as well as those of a tiny and needy baby (and my own needs, too!), not falling too far behind with my work and maintaining energy levels on a day to day basis. The biggest emotional challenge is when the baby comes from very disadvantaged circumstances and ends up going back into that situation rather than being adopted. As a Kanga mum, we have no say about whether the biological mother decides to keep the baby or whether it goes to another family – we have to let the baby go and learn to accept it.

To give back a baby to his or her biological family when you are unsure if the biological family will be able to cope with the baby is even harder to do.”

Rika Labuschaigne: The ‘letting go’ of a baby that becomes so deeply loved, just like one of your own children, is very, very hard to do – even if you know it is the best for the baby. To give back a baby to his or her biological family when you are unsure if the biological family will be able to cope with the baby is even harder to do. I usually go through a mourning period after a baby has left before I am ready to take care of a new baby.

What have been the greatest joys?

Erica Neser: There is nothing more exciting than getting that call that says you have to pick up a newborn. Meeting a baby who may only be a few hours old, taking them home and caring for them as your own, is wonderful. It is a privilege to love these little people, to give them the opportunity to feel 100% safe and wanted. And then, the bitter-sweet pinnacle: to see the baby in the arms of their adoptive parents for the first time, knowing the baby is safe and will be loved to bits.

Rika Labuschaigne: Where do I start? From the moment you receive the call to fetch your new baby to meeting the little one for the first time and safely holding him or her in your arms  – for me these precious moments are pure joy! Also, experiencing the joy it brings to adoptive parents who have been longing for a baby – to be part of that moment when they meet their baby for the first time – is soul satisfying. I also find great joy in getting feedback from adoptive parents, saying that the baby is doing well (sometimes even years later).

What is the typical situation of those moms whose babies are placed in the care of Kanga Moms?

It is an act of love and self-sacrifice, and should never be judged as callous or uncaring.”

Erica Neser: This varies greatly, but many of the moms are young, unmarried and/or unemployed and simply cannot take care of a(nother) child. Some live in very challenging circumstances, where there is abuse, poverty and/or illness. It is important to understand that these babies are NOT unloved, thrown away or rejected. The mom has to make an incredibly difficult decision – she cares about the baby so much that she wants to give him a better life than she can, and is willing to go through this heart-wrenching loss, for the sake of the baby. It is an act of love and self-sacrifice, and should never be judged as callous or uncaring.

What kind of personality/character traits do you think a person needs to become a Kanga Mom?

Erica Neser: Kanga Moms have to be patient, resilient, committed, caring, emotionally stable and they must love babies. They have to be able to love the baby fully and not be emotionally devastated when the baby has to move on. Ideally, their families are already complete (otherwise it may be very difficult to let the baby go). Their home and work life should be of such nature that it could accommodate a baby full-time for several months. A good support system helps, but you don’t have to be married to be a Kanga Mom. Potential moms or families are screened by a social worker and must have no criminal record.

Rika Labuschaigne: You need a love for children, patience, commitment, emotional maturity and a good support system.

Who do you contact if you want to become a Kanga Mom?

Erica Neser: The best start would be getting in touch with a local adoption agency or Child Welfare to enquire about their foster care requirements.

Rika Labuschaigne: There are different organisations in the Cape Town area that make use of Kanga moms:

  • AFM ABBA Adoptions – 021 903 6757
  • Cape Town Child Welfare – 021 638 3127
  • Magdalena House (BADISA) – 021 948 3637
  • Procare  – 021 873 0532
  • Wandisa – 021 852 8025

Although their future lives cannot be controlled, babies whose biological parents are incapable of taking care of them can start their lives enveloped in abundant love – securely strapped to the loving hearts and held in the caring arms of Kanga Moms.

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