Two toddlers who were accidentally swapped at birth should stay with the families who raised them and not be returned to their biological parents, according to a court appointed expert.
The children, a boy and a girl, now aged four, were born to different mothers on the same day in 2010 in a hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa. They ended up being taken home and raised by the wrong parents.
In a report on the case by the University of Pretoria's Centre for Child Law, Professor Anne Skelton writes that the mistake was probably the result of a midwife accidentally switching the babies' name tags on a busy day.
The parents didn't discover their children had been switched until 2013, when one of the mothers underwent paternity tests because her ex-husband was refusing to pay child maintenance as he didn't believe he was the child's father.
The tests revealed that he was not the father - and she was not the mother.
"She was almost hit by two cars on her way back home," Professor Skelton says in the report.
The mother initially wanted her biological child back, but later acknowledged this may not be in the children's best interests.
"She said that it would be sad to take [the girl] away from a father who loved her," writes Skelton. "She also said that she was worried about [the boy she has raised] if the other family was unable to love him."
The other mother was hospitalised due to the shock of learning that her daughter was not her biological child. Her former boyfriend - and father of her baby - was also devastated.
"He compared it to the loss of all his limbs," adds Professor Skelton.
The court asked the Centre for Child Law to investigate and report back on what course of action would be in the children's best interests.
"The recommendation is that the children should stay with the parents who have raised them and should also be permitted to have contact with their biological parents," said Professor Skelton on Wednesday, November 26.
A final court date to decide the children's futures has not yet been set but Professor Skelton said she was hopeful the recommendation would be followed because it was now what both parents wanted.
The parents have not yet commented on the recommendations.
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