The saying that one person’s sorrow is another’s joy is personified in the life of Bernadette Shooka, who three years ago adopted a baby girl.
Baby Gift – also known as Magano Shooka – was abandoned at a construction site in Dorado Park with no chance of any future. But as fate would have it, the child was soon rescued from the dump and Shooka would soon become her adoptive mother. Three years later Bernadette says she has absolutely no regrets about her decision.
“I love everything about her… Her smile, the way she talks… everything,” she says happily, adding that the two of them have so much in common, such as “a high sense of fashion.”
“We both love dancing, singing, shopping and we have self-confidence, and above all, we are two powerful, loving and amazing women who found each other,” Shooya says, adding that she and her adoptive daughter were both born in November.
She is also quick to add that adoption saves lives and that she plans to adopt more children in future.
“…I plan on adopting more children as long as there are innocent souls out there. There are many children awaiting a miracle. They have a right to love and shelter and I would like to have a baby boy if God permits,” says Shooka, who cannot give birth to children.
Providing a home to an otherwise destitute child is the greatest way to show love, she feels.
“Adoption saves lives. It is one of the most powerful ways to defeat tribalism in our country and to turn our nation’s view of being tribe-blinded, by showing love to everyone. Care to share and care to love and be loved by children. That can be the answer to your prayers, as Gift is to mine,” says Shooka, who is in her forties.
She also spoke about the fact that adoption is not widely accepted, especially if the adopted child is not related to the adoptive parents. Several people have asked her what she would do if Magano’s biological parents at a later stage decide that they want their child back.
“I do not fear losing her to the biological parents, because Baby Gift has become a part of me and I’m a part of her. She is absolutely the light of my life,” Shooka replies. At this stage the biological parents are not known.
Although Shooka is employed on a full-time basis, she makes sure that she gives her daughter the best of everything, time and love especially: “When I get home from work she runs to the door and wraps her tiny arms around me. As I settle in we talk, as she always has a lot to say. I prepare meals and I get to read stories to her and we say our prayers before bedtime.
“We also travel a lot when we can and on Saturdays we go for window shopping. I treat her to the best that I can,” the proud mother beamed.
“As you know, children are blessings and blessings come in different ways. For me and those who have walked this path before me this is the way of giving birth to our children,” says Shooya.
Adoption can be a relatively complex legal process. The Children’s Act of 1960 stipulates that a biological parent can apply for the rescission of an adoption order in cases of dispute. The law specifies that a biological parent should give consent for a child to be adopted and this consent must be given in the presence of a magistrate.
In addition, the court has the right to dispense with the consent of a biological mother in certain circumstances, such as the abandonment of a child. Once the adoption is finalised there is a two-year grace period to allow for the possible revocation of the adoption order, but there should be valid grounds as to why the applicants may want the adoption nullified. After the grace period has lapsed the biological parents have no claim to the child.
MANY DESTITUTE CHILDREN
Clinical psychologist Dr Shaun Whittaker believes adoption should be encouraged, because it has many advantages, such as providing a good and stable home for the adopted children.
“There are many destitute children out there and there are parents who are motivated to provide this child with a lovely upbringing,” said Whittaker, but he notes that people do not speak enough about the complications of adoption.
“The biggest mistake is not telling the child that they are adopted,” said Whittaker. He says not revealing to the child that their adoptive parents are not their real parents only shatters the child’s life once they find out. The best time to tell the child that they are adopted is before their teen years, as they struggle with identity problems in that phase of development. “It can be devastating if a child finds out in a negative light that they are adopted,” Whittaker said.
He emphasised that it is best that the child knows they are adopted, so that even if they should feel the desire to know their real parents they would find out that they are mere strangers to them.
“The longer you wait to break the news to the child the more damaging the news will be,” Whittaker said, adding that adoptive parents often hesitate to break the news to their children for fear of rejection.
BABY DUMPING NO ANSWER
Shooka believes there are many reasons why babies are abandoned. This includes post-natal depression. She says, “The lack of support to new mothers, and fathers who deny their responsibilities, are some of the main reasons why babies are dumped.”
Instead of dumping babies, mothers should look for other alternatives, such as seeking help without being ashamed of it, she advised.
“Baby dumping and mistreating children are not the answers. Whatever situation you may find yourself in there are always good people to help out, such as government social workers. I believe such brutal acts [such as baby dumping] are committed out of fear and anger,” Shooka said.