The parents of a boy and a girl who were swapped at birth at a Boksburg state hospital five years ago have obtained the legal right to raise the children they were given as their own.
The majority of a full bench of judges in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria yesterday granted an order recognising the parents’ present situation as a de facto adoption, but also giving them the right to have contact with their biological children.
The court ordered that a parenting co-ordinator must be appointed to manage the process with the parents and the therapeutic support and integration team of the Child and Adolescent Family Unit which is already involved.
The court order means the parents’ civil claim against the state will now finally be able to proceed.
In August 2010, the children, known as Girl M and Boy Z, were switched at birth at Tambo Memorial Hospital and sent home with the wrong mothers. The swap was only discovered four years later when one of the mothers started maintenance proceedings against the biological father of her eldest child, whom she considered to be the father of her baby.
He disputed paternity and DNA tests revealed that neither parent was biologically related to the child she had raised from birth. The hospital thereafter admitted that the children were swapped.
The court in May last year appointed Professor Ann Skelton of the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Child Law to investigate all of the issues pertaining to the two children.
One of the mothers previously applied in the children’s court to swap the children, but the other mother refused.
All of the parents have since conceded it would be in the children’s best interest to remain where they are. Skelton told the court all the psychologists involved agreed it was in the best interests of the children to remain in the care of their “psychological parents” who had raised them since birth.
The psychologists said the idea of who they actually were should gradually be incorporated into their lives. Skelton asked the court to recognise a de facto adoption so the children could have certainty they were safe with the parents who were emotionally attached to them.