Our Adoption Journey

Our journey to start a family through the miracle of adoption.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Kangaroo Mums

The following article gives some insight into the lives of the woman who take care of the babies for the two month period while they are placed in "kangaroo care".
I found it fascinating to read about their side of the process, as it is not something I think about often, but the reality is that our baby will be in the care of one of these ladies as well before we get to take him/her home.  


by Erica Neser on Friday, September 21, 2012 at 5:35pm


Since becoming a “Kanga mum” (Temporary Safe Care Parent) I have been asked so many questions about the baby, his mum, his future and the process of adoption. So I decided to write the questions down and try to provide a short answer to each so that people can understand how it all works.

“Why can't he go to his adoptive parents yet?”

The baby's birth mother has two months to change her mind and take her baby back. The law has recently been changed to protect adoptive parents from the trauma of having a baby  for several  weeks or even a full two months and then having the baby taken away from then again.

Sometimes the biological father, who also needs to sign consent for the adoption, cannot be contacted. Certain steps have to be taken to ensure that every effort has been made to get hold of him. This delays the process. International adoptions can take 6-8 months.

Once the baby is officially “adoptable”, the adoptive parents are notified that there is a baby ready for them. The birth mother can not take the baby back after this.

“Why did our friends get their adopted baby at birth?”

Some private adoptions still work this way, but the birth mum, her family and the father's family still have two months to take the baby back. It is considered a high risk adoption.

“What if you want to keep him?”

Kanga mums do not keep the babies. They are, per definition, temporary caregivers, looking after the baby until he is adopted.

“Can we/our friends adopt him?”

No, the baby has in most cases already been assigned to a family who applied for adoption through the social workers. The adoptive parents do not know that they have been chosen until the waiting period is over, in order to avoid disappointment if it falls through.

“Who is his mother? Did you meet her?”

The birth mother’s name and other details are confidential to protect her privacy. Kanga mums sometimes do meet the birth mother if she requests to see the baby while in Kanga care. This is done under social worker supervision.

“How can anyone throw away a perfect baby like this?”

This baby is not thrown away - his mum loves and cares about him so much that she wants to give him a better life than she can. It is  an act of love and self-sacrifice. Biological mothers often want to keep their babies, but due to circumstances, they simply can't. Kanga mums do not always know exactly why the baby has to be adopted, and may not be at liberty to reveal the reasons even if she knows.

“It’s wrong! His biological mum will regret this for the rest of her life!”

No-one can judge whether it is right or wrong to give a baby up for adoption. It is not a decision made lightly or impulsively. Sometimes it is the best thing to do, in order to give the baby a better life. Every effort is made to ensure that the mother is counselled and the adoption is done in a way that gives her peace.

“Won't you get attached? How will you ever give him away again?”

Kanga mums are encouraged to love and bond with these babies, so that the baby can experience being loved and how it feels to be attached. The alternative is for babies to be placed in homes. Being cared for by a loving family is better for the baby.

Kanga mums know right from the start that it is a temporary situation, and that they are basically babysitting someone else's baby for them. Focusing on how good it is for the baby to be loved this way as well as the new parents' joy at receiving this gift helps. Kanga mums do cry and mourn when the babies are adopted, but we are happy for the baby to go to his forever family.

“Will you keep in touch with him?”

Probably not. Kanga mums have to love and let go, knowing that the baby is with a good family.

“Won't it be very hard for him to adjust to his new parents?”

These babies adjust well - the better bonded they are, the more easily they bond with their new parents. Bonding in humans is a process that can start at any age, and can be instantaneous or it could take time. Whether the child is 2 months or 2 years when adopted, bonding will happen!

“Will you meet them?”

Yes, the Kanga mum spends some time with the new parents on the day the baby is adopted, to tell them all about the baby, his likes and dislikes, habits and routine. The Kanga mum has a chance to say goodbye.

“What if his mum wants him back?”

If his mum wants him back within the two month period, she notifies the social worker, and they have to go to the court to officially withdraw consent for adoption. The social workers make sure the family can indeed take care of the baby and that he will be safe. The Kanga mum is then required to bring the baby to a designated place, or he is fetched from her home by the mother and social worker.

“What is his name?”

Birth mums often give their babies a special name. If not, the Kanga parents give babies temporary names. Sometimes using the baby's given name will compromise confidentiality, in which case Kanga mums may use a different name. When the baby is adopted, he gets a brand new name, chosen by his new parents.

“Where was he born?”

The identity and privacy birth mother and baby need to be protected, so Kanga mums are not at liberty to reveal the place of birth.

“Can I babysit for you?”

If you have a police clearance, yes! This is what the law requires in order to ensure the baby’s safety.

“Do you have to pay for everything?”

The government contributes a small daily amount, which just about covers his milk. If there are medical problems, the baby goes to a government hospital. Kanga mums are responsible for nappies, clothes, car seats etc. We often take our babies to our own doctor and carry the costs, to avoid the long queues at government hospitals. We also buy over-the-counter medicines when necessary.

“How can I help?”

Kanga mums may not accept cash for the babies, but you can donate your old baby stuff to the Kanga 'depot,' especially newborn and 0-3 months. Disposable nappies, bottles and infant formula are always welcome! 

“I would love to become a Kanga mum. Who do I contact? How do I get involved?”

Prospective Kanga mums work through social workers. We can put you in touch with the relevant people. New “recruits” attend a training session to familiarize them with the process. They are required to obtain a police clearance, and undergo screening by a social worker.


  1. This is so interesting - in Alberta (Canada), our process is completely different. All private adoptions are open and babies are placed with adoptive parents at birth. It's interesting to see how different the processes are in different parts of the world!

    1. It does happen that babies are placed at birth, but most of the agencies prefer to only let adoptive parents know after the waiting period is over in order to spare them possible trauma and heartache - which unfortunately often happens. You can read about The Blessed Barrenness's experience here: http://www.theblessedbarrenness.co.za/?p=6542.

  2. Juanita, ek leen hierdie een vir my eie blog as jy nie omgee nie:) Well done.

  3. So very interesting. I had never heard of Kanga mums and I look forward to learning more about adoption in South Africa through your blog. Hoping your wait is a short one.