Thu | Jan 23, 2020

Babies in demand - Requests for newborns could be fuelling child stealing and back-door adoptions in Jamaica

Published:Sunday | February 10, 2019 | 12:32 AM
Ricardo Makyn/Chief Photo editor 
Sinclair Hutton kisses his son after Rosalee Gage-Grey, head of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency, handed over baby Sae’breon to him at the Denham Town Police Station in Kingston last week.
Ricardo Makyn/Chief Photo editor Sinclair Hutton kisses his son after Rosalee Gage-Grey, head of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency, handed over baby Sae’breon to him at the Denham Town Police Station in Kingston last week.

The recovery of babe Sae’breon, who was abducted from the Victoria Jubilee Hospital (VJH) on January 9, has sent senior police investigators probing the possibility of a baby-stealing ring operating in Jamaica, and information from the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) has pointed to a possible motive.

According to the CPFSA, scores of children above three years old, who are up for adoption, are being shunned by persons looking to adopt a child as these would-be parents are only interested in babies.

These would-be parents are also shunning children with any medical challenges.

Maxine Bagalue, adoption coordinator at the CPFSA, last week toldThe Sunday Gleaner that between 150 and 190 adoption applications are made annually to the agency by persons looking to take home a new child.

But many of the applications linger as the CPFSA struggles to meet the demands of the potential parents.

“Most of our adopters, especially Jamaicans, want a child between zero and three years old, and they want a child that has no medical conditions,” said Bagalue.

“Sickle-cell trait, for example. It is very difficult to match a child with sickle-cell trait. This is not even full-blown sickle. We are only talking about the trait, and nobody wants to touch that child,” added Bagalue.

She noted that it is difficult for persons who are requesting these young and healthy children to adopt through the CPFSA, but less difficult for those who want to adopt a relative, or a child that they already have contact with.

Bagalue pointed out that 90 per cent of adoptions in Jamaica are family-related.

According to Bagalue, the CPFSA is challenged to meet the requirements of those seeking healthy babies as very few are abandoned at hospitals, and those who are turned over to state care after birth are not necessarily available for adoption.

She underscored that few parents give consent for their children to be adopted, even though they have placed the child in the care of the state.

“So, most of the children who come into state care are not available, and that is the pool that we pull from,” she explained.

Bagalue said the CPFSA is further challenged as some mothers try to give their children up for adoption without the consent of the child’s father.

There are also other mothers, she said, who opt for back-door or illegal adoptions, making arrangements with strangers without the involvement of the CPFSA, or the Adoption Board.

There have also been reports, not yet confirmed, of persons waiting outside delivery rooms at hospitals, and collecting the baby from the mother shortly after birth, in what medical personnel believe is a cash exchange.

“When they make arrangements with people, sometimes the arrangements don’t suit them, and therefore other challenges arise,” she explained, adding that the CPFSA is mandated to thoroughly investigate would-be parents and their competency.

To offer solace to children who are not being picked for adoption, the CPFSA has invited more Jamaicans, particularly those who have filed for adoptions, to become foster parents – at least until a child of their liking has been identified and becomes available.

Unlike adoption where a parent relinquishes his or her rights to the child, and the person adopting the child takes the minor as his or her own, foster-parenting is a temporary arrangement.

“This is for children who are not free for adoption but who really need that one-on-one home environment and familial setting. We look to place those children in foster-care environments,” said Rochelle Dixon, public relations manager at the CPFSA.

“We know that there are persons on the waiting list for adoption, but we are saying to people that even though your preference for the child you want may not be readily available, we are asking you to now look at fostering,” added Dixon.

The CPFSA will this week recognise National Foster Care Week under the theme: ‘Give love, inspire hope, and foster a child’.

Sae’breon was abducted on January 9, hours after his mother had given birth. The child turned up at the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) last Tuesday in the arms of a woman, claiming to be his mother, and trying to register his birth.

Following questioning by staff at the RGD the police were called in and DNA tests confirmed that the baby was the one stolen from his mother at the VJH.

Since then, Howard Chambers, the superintendent in charge of the west Kingston police, has indicated that the police are looking to see if there is a possibility of organised crime in terms of a baby-stealing ring in the country.

At least three children have been abducted from hospitals in Jamaica in recent months. All three children were recovered and reunited with their parents.