Sign up to receive this blog by email

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Why we had to say “no” to a baby this week (caution - graphic photos)

I always hoped we would not have to say “no” to a child in need, but this week it happened.

There are certain criteria that we have when accepting children, but it is more age related than anything else.  We welcome children who are HIV positive and even those with serious medical conditions that require hospitalization or surgery (see last week’s story about Phephile or River’s story at

Our focus is accepting children under the age of 12-months.  We have made a few exceptions to that rule including Gabriel, Rose, Grace, Jared, Thando, Junior and Phephile, but for the most part we accept small babies.  In fact 50% of our children arrive under 30-days old. All of the children will stay with us until they finish high school and find their way in to University, vocational training or find employment.

Another guideline that we have is that we do not knowingly accept severely disabled children.  We do not have the staff or expertise to manage children with disabilities and the Social Welfare officers know what our guidelines are.  That being said, we do have two children who are blind (Grace and Michelle) and we have another 10% of our children who have some kind of long term disability, typically Cerebral Palsy related, that was not identified until the child was old enough to be assessed.

But this week was different. 

I was called about an urgent case of a 9-month old child who needed help. I asked about the child’s health status and was told that the child was fine, just couldn't sit by himself, but that was likely due to his malnourished state.  I was asked to come immediately while a court order was being sought.   I took Welile (our baby home Sr. Supervisor) and Chris Cheek so that we could assess the child in person. Things are not always as they are told to us on the phone. 

We drove for 2 hours and found the child sitting on a piece of cardboard outside the Social Welfare office.   Immediately we knew that things weren’t as we had been told.  The child was actually 1-year old and we instantly knew that he was totally blind.  We asked the mother if he was born that way and she said, no.  He had large bumps down one side of his body and ended up in the government hospital for 3-months. He became blind during that time.  He had no muscle tone at all in his body and his head flopped from side to side as his mouth moved in a very strange way as his head fell backwards.

His diaper was simply a plastic grocery bag and he needed to be changed so Welile offered a diaper and wipes.   When the mom wiped his bottom we saw huge scars where much of his right buttocks had been removed.  We were shocked at the site/sight and when we asked her about it she said that the hospital had cut some of the lumps out and that is how the scaring happened.  

Then I asked to see the child’s health card.  That is when we saw the worst of it – he had Tuberculosis (TB) and he was not on treatment (which is free here). He had a terrible cough and was a sick little boy.  Sadly, none of the mother’s stories seem to add up.   Each sentence would contradict something that she had just said so we really weren’t able to get an accurate history. 

As Welile, Chris and I discussed the situation and it was clear that this child needed help, but it was not help that we could give.  Bringing a sick, coughing child with TB into a home with 101 others, many who are immune compromised, would be a disaster. 

I have learned A LOT about pediatric medical conditions since moving here.  Here is what we are “guessing” happened to the child.  We think that the large
“bumps” were a result of having TB - severely swollen/abscess glands are common.  We are assuming that the child had meningitis (brain infection) while in hospital which caused the blindness and the Cerebral Palsy-like symptoms.  We really don’t know what is going on at home and don’t have any confidence that the story told to us by the mother is in any way true or accurate.  Social Welfare has more investigating to do in this case.  We gave the mother some money from my Compassion Purse and drove back to town where Phephile was getting a hard plaster cast on her broken leg.  

Wednesday was a tough day, but I do know that we can’t save everyone.  We are called to be prayerful about who comes to the home and protect those who have been placed in our care.

I will continue to pray for this child, his mother and others who are in desperate need. And I will continue to give thanks to the God who sees and ask that HE provide His comfort to us all.

Live from Swaziland … the good news is Phephile is doing well and now living at the toddler home.



  1. Love you Janine! Sending hugs and prayers your way!!!

  2. I am so sorry. I will pray for this child and mother.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.