Toddlers switched at birth to stay with family

Two South African toddlers who were accidentally swapped on the day they were born should stay with the families who raised them and not be returned to their biological parents, a court-appointed expert has ruled.

The two children, a boy and a girl who are now aged four, were born on the same day in 2010 in a Johannesburg hospital but ended up being taken home and raised by different parents after nurses mixed up their identities.

The families were unaware of the mistake until one of the mothers underwent tests when her ex-husband refused to pay child maintenance because he believed he was not the father.

Paternity tests revealed that not only was he not the boy’s father, but she was not his mother.

One of the mothers had initially wanted to get her biological child back and was left needing hospital treatment for shock at learning the daughter she had been raising was not hers.

The other mother preferred to keep the one she had raised, leaving the North Gauteng High Court to decide.

The court asked the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Child Law to investigate and report back on what would be in the children’s best interests, which are given a prominent position in matters concerning minors under South African law.

“The recommendation is that the children should stay with the parents who have raised them and should also be permitted to have contact with their biological parents,” said Ann Skelton, director of the centre.

The court has not set a date to decide the final fate of the children but Skelton said she was hopeful its recommendation would be followed because it was now what both parents wanted.

“There was one mom who originally wanted to get her biological child back but she has softened her position and she accepts now that it’s not really possible,” Skelton said.

If accepted it would see the mothers cutting all legal ties with their biological children.

But they would then be treated as adoptive parents of the children they have been raising, reports

Skelton said the swap is likely to have happened after the midwife overseeing the births mixed up the files or the name tags of the babies on what was a ‘very busy’ day at the hospital.


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