At last, dad is allowed to take Baby T home
Falsely accused of being an abusive and mentally unstable drug addict, Jose Williams nearly lost his baby daughter to an adoption to which he was fiercely opposed.
But the 26-year-old refused to give up on his first-born child and, after the claims made against him by his baby’s mother and the Abba Adoption agency were shown to be baseless, he won his nearly nine-month-long battle to obtain custody of the little girl on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, he and his daughter played “aeroplanes” together in the garden of the family home. He grinned with delight, and she chuckled as he swung her around
Earlier in the day, in an apparent about-turn, Abba – which had earlier wrongly branded Williams as an aggressive man who abused his baby’s mother and had argued that his daughter should be put up for adoption – recommended to the Pretoria Children’s Court that he be given custody.
The Children’s Court agreed and awarded Williams custody for a two-year period, during which he will apply for permanent custody of his daughter in the Pretoria High Court.
Williams, who is preparing to lodge a complaint of unethical and unprofessional conduct against Abba with the SA Council for Social Service Professions, now wants to ensure that no parent ever has to “go through what I did”.
Speaking to The Star at the Kensington, Joburg, home that he shares with his mother and sisters, Williams sat with his eight-and-a-half-month-old daughter nestled in his lap. The little girl regularly fixed her gaze on her father – who shares her birthday with her – and beamed.
In the month since her father was allowed to remove her from the state baby home where she spent the first seven months of her life, the little girl has gained 2kg.
“It scares me so much that I could have lost her,” Williams said.
“If I hadn’t been able to raise money for a lawyer and had the loving and supportive family that I do, I don’t know what would have happened. My daughter could be living with a family on the other side of the world. I thank God that she is here with me.”
Williams’ ordeal began two months before his daughter was born, when the child’s mother approached Abba and asked them to arrange for the adoption.
According to the baby’s mother, this was because the agency had helped her when she fell pregnant at 17, and she wanted them to arrange that the same couple who adopted her previous baby be given Williams’ child.
But Williams was adamant that he would never give up his daughter – and it was then that his troubles began.
Williams is now hoping that his planned complaint to the council will shed light on his daughter’s foiled adoption and expose the allegedly unlawful conduct that nearly saw it succeed.
His complaints against Abba include the following:
· Under the new Children’s Act, an unmarried father can acquire full parental responsibilities and rights if he consents to be identified as the child’s father or has contributed to the child’s upbringing or maintenance. All of these conditions apply to Williams.
· While Abba manager Katinka Pieterse earlier insisted to The Star that the adoption of Williams’ daughter was immediately halted when he indicated that he opposed it, Williams insists that Abba social worker Leoni Greyling informed him there was “nothing I could do” to stop the process.
· Records from Steve Biko (formerly Pretoria) Academic Hospital reveal that Greyling used a “Form 4” document to take Williams’ daughter and place her in a place of safety affiliated with Abba after her birth. In the document, Greyling claimed she would obtain Williams’ consent for the removal. She never did.
· Williams and his mother, Heloise Sequeira, learnt of his daughter’s birth a week after it happened, when Greyling sent them an SMS. They later drove to the Pretoria Children’s Court, where Sequeira said she discovered the April 16 court roll and found a reference to her granddaughter’s hearing as an inter-country adoption. Pieterse insists that the hearing was a “child in need of care” case.
· On the day of a crucial June 17 hearing into his daughter’s future, Williams claims he received a phone call from Greyling in which she told him that he was not required to attend because it was “final” that the child would be adopted. She later wrote in a report that Williams had failed to show up at the meeting.
· In another report, Greyling stated without any proof that it was “clear that the biological father did abuse the biological mother before and during her pregnancy”.
· Williams’ lawyer has obtained proof that Pieterse responded to international queries about The Star’s article on Williams’ plight by claiming that Williams was a drug addict. Drug test results obtained by Williams – and seen by The Star – show that he does not use drugs. Pieterse said she does not recall sending the e-mail.
· Backed by SMS evidence, Williams also claims he was denied the right to visit his daughter over a two-month period.
In response to e-mail queries from The Star, Pieterse denied any wrongdoing on Abba’s part, insisting that all issues related to Williams’ daughter had been dealt with in a legally correct way.
This article was originally published on page 1 of The Star on December 11, 2008