The parents of a six year old child, who has been the subject of a protracted adoption legal suit, have accused the government of Botswana of giving away their child to one Deborah Jan Kirsten-Mey, a South African woman who allegedly adopted the child from her biological mother without the knowledge and consent of her biological father.
The child’s biological parents Annah Kopo (mother) and Joshua July (father) argue that the current custodian of the child, the father, was not aware and did not give consent when government officials forcefully removed the child from her mother’s care and gave her to Kirsten-Mey on Friday. Reports indicate that Kirsten-Mey had already crossed the border with the child en-route to Qatar. According to the mother, Annah Kopo, she met Kirstein-Mey a few months after the birth of her daughter in Orapa in 2008.
At the time, Kopo was not able to support her child and Kirsten-Mey offered to help. “The white lady offered her assistance in terms of supporting the child until she has grown up. At the time I was confused and I only thought the white lady was innocently helping me. It was only later when I learnt that she had adopted another child whom I always saw her with,” she said. Kopo said she did not involve her family when Kirsten-Mey proposed to adopt the baby. The two arranged to see a social worker in Orapa who advised Kopo not to give away her child. They tried another social worker in Letlhakane who also advised Kopo not to go ahead with the adoption. “At this point in time I was totally lost thinking that the social workers were just jealous that the white lady wanted to look after my daughter,” she said.
After the plan to adopt the child through social workers failed, Kopo revealed that Kirsten-Mey then proposed that the two of them should continue with the adoption process without involving anyone. She added that Kirsten-Mey later told her that they were going to make a written agreement stating that they are the joint custodians of the child and they will raise her together. “We did the whole adoption process and kept everything between the two of us. She advised me not to engage anyone because they will delay the process. She did all the paper work and I just signed everything. In some instances she told me what to write. We finalized everything and she took the baby with her. I visited them with confidence that I was part of my child’s life, hoping that in future my child will come back to me. I was clueless that everything changed the moment I signed those papers,” she said. After the adoption was completed, Kirsten-Mey relocated to Jwaneng while the mother stayed in Orapa.
However, things changed a couple of months after Kirsten-Mey relocated to Jwaneng, as her maids told Kopo that the boss lady didn’t like her frequent visits because they created a bond between her and the baby. “The maids were told not to allow me around her premises. I got angry and called to find out what was going on. She went to the police to report me and applied for a restraining order. That was when I realized that I could be losing my child. I engaged the lawyers, but nothing positive came out until the child’s biological father approached the courts,” said Kopo. For his part the biological father, Joshua July, said he was kept in the dark about the adoption. He revealed that he separated with the mother long before the child was born in 2008. However, he continued to support in terms of caring for the child and even paid maids to look after her. Three months after the child was born, her mother told July that there was a certain white lady who wanted to help take care of the child. At the time, the child was already living with the said white lady. July said there was nothing he could do at that point so he just accepted what he was told. “I was not aware of the details I just thought it was just a friendly gesture from the white lady,” he said. July only learnt about the adoption issue when the case was already before the courts.
He challenged the adoption arguing that he had not been engaged in the whole proceedings even though he was the biological father. He won the case in March this year and was given custody of the child. Since then, July has been living with the child and they had grown to become the best of friends. That was until the Court upheld Kirsten-Mey’s appeal. “A few days back I learnt that the white lady had appealed and there was a court order demanding that I give back the child to her. The police called me to say they were coming to collect the baby. I told them the baby was in Francistown but they insisted that they want the child. At that point the child was staying with her mother,” he said.
While he was still in talks with the police officers, July got the shock of his life when he received a call from the child’s biological mother on Friday morning, telling her that the police had gotten the baby. “I did not give my daughter to the white lady. As far as I am concerned government has my daughter and she is still under my custody because I have not released her. The court order requested me to hand over the child but I never handed the child to the white lady. I demand that the government should give back my child,” he said.