BIRTH certificates were the only memories left for Erick Bhengu of Kwangcolosi, near Hillcrest, that he was once a father to his two daughters who were adopted by a foreign couple, apparently without his knowledge.
The inter-country adoption took place in 2014 after an order by Camperdown Children’s Court allowed a Netherlands couple to adopt his daughters, aged 6 and 8 at the time.
The girls lived at ikhethelo Children’s Village in Kwanyuswa, near Botha’s Hill, after their mother died in 2008.
Now, Bhengu, 37, wants them back, claiming he was not consulted. He had an option to file a review application at the high court, but without money, he was unable to do so.
Bhengu, a part-time gardener, confirmed that he had no money to support his daughters who lived with their great-grandmother until she died in 2013. He would visit them from time to time during their stay at a children’s village until he was denied access, he said.
However, the court declared his children adoptable based on the reports that were presented by Wandisa Adoption Agency which facilitated the process.
In the report presented to the court, the agency stated the mother had passed away and the father was “unknown.”
It said the girls were neglected for an extended period, living in poor conditions and had not attended school.
It further stated the family had been visited and interacted with, but it was clear the children could not remain in the care of their great-grandmother.
Although maternal family members were present, no one was willing to look after the girls, said the report.
The agency placed a newspaper advert asking that any paternal family of the children urgently contact the social worker, but there was no contact.
Bhengu rejected some of the findings. “I was denied access to the children’s home, and I was asked to prove I was the biological father. They told me I will only see my kids when they turn 18. I discovered they have been moved overseas. I wonder why I was referred to as ‘unknown’ while I knew where my kids stayed, and I had visited them. The processes were manipulated.”
Graeme Wright, Ikhethelo Children’s Village chief executive, could not confirm Bhengu’s version because he joined the facility after the children and most of the staff who had dealt with them had left.
Debbie Wybrow, director of Wandisa Adoption Agency, said the girls were declared eligible by the Department of Social Development for inter-country adoption after their names were placed on the Register on Adoptable Children and Prospective Adoptive Parents for local options. No one came forward within South Africa.
Regarding Bhengu’s claim about not being consulted, she said there was one incident where “someone, who said he was the children’s father, arrived at the children’s home”.
“He was not able to show he was their father, nor did he have identification documents. In line with the policy of the home, the man was denied access. Despite this, attempts were made to establish contact with this man via the telephone number that had been provided, but not successfully,” she said.
Wybrow said the biological father had not been listed on either child’s unabridged birth certificates.
Bhengu is seeking legal avenues to bring his daughters home.