By Maryke Venter
30 May 2021 marked the first day of the official Child Protection Week in SA. And yes, within the COVID-19 crisis there has never been a more important time than now to be part of the solution to protect children. My own journey with Child Protection started more than 40 years ago. I was born into a family where both my brothers were adopted. To be part of this journey has molded me in so many ways and what a privilege to be part of a story of HOPE right from the very beginning. Because you see, our family would never have been truly complete without my brothers.
At 17 I received a calling to become a social worker – something I never even considered before. This calling led me to the next phase of my journey with Child Protection. I never doubted that I needed to support children and families in need. In 2013 is started at CMR North as Director. This role gave me a front-row seat to the challenges but also the triumphs organizations face and have in their endeavors to protect children.
Our work is mostly invisible as it involves legal processes; because of this the simplest way to describe our work is to declare: We save children!
During this week, we will share some information about child protection, but more importantly, we will share stories of HOPE. Please support this crucial work that may be invisible but has a lasting effect on every child we save.
CHILD PROTECTION IS NOT A JOB IT IS A CALLING
By Petro Fourie
CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE: The effect of COVID-19 as it takes it’s toll on our children →
COVID-19 has highlighted and amplified structural inequalities; drawing attention to various social issues. In South Africa, the pandemic and the results of the national lockdown have highlighted the shortcomings in the protection and care of children. Children in alternative care are particularly at risk as a result of disrupted and uncoordinated service delivery.
Children in South Africa face an increased risk of abuse and violence, as a result of the broad-ranging impact of COVID-19, according to UNICEF South Africa and child protection partners. The alarm has been raised after Childline South Africa reported a more than 36.8% increase in calls for help during August 2020, compared with the same month in 2019. This data coincides with reports from healthcare facilities of a consistent and concerning number of severe injuries among child abuse referrals. (October 2020)
“Violence against children is unacceptable at any time,” said UNICEF South Africa Representative, Christine Muhigana. “It’s extremely concerning that at a time of national and global crisis, children are facing violence and abuse at such horrific levels,” added Muhigana.
The COVID-19 lockdown measures in South Africa helped to slow the spread of the virus but have also, in some cases, further isolated vulnerable children at home and disrupted prevention and response services. UNICEF’s recent global report ‘Protecting Children from Violence in the Time of COVID-19’, noted how children behind closed doors and away from school face increased risks of abuse and violence. The economic fallout from the virus has also placed additional socio-economic strains on already struggling families. Parents, families and individuals are understandably facing extreme stress due to the COVID-19 impact, but children should not bear the brunt of these economic challenges.
Children in South Africa are particularly vulnerable as a result of the economic challenges; for example, poverty creates food insecurity which impacts on a child’s physical, mental and cognitive development (Hall & Sambu, 2014). Research suggests that prior to the pandemic a quarter of children in South Africa were stunted, 12.5 million children were dependent on child support grants, 59% of children lived below the upper-bound poverty line, 30% of children were without access to water and 8% of children lived in overcrowded households
Understanding the emotional patterns linked to the current pandemic from the voice of those that are most vulnerable i.e., children, and identifying how they cognitively represent and emotionally face this new situation could help to lay bare the strategies that could be developed in order to help them deal with the crisis from a psychological, emotional, and social sphere.
Research has shown that, contrary to popular belief, children are not impervious to COVID-19. They are experiencing this health crisis and its consequences first-hand, and they are feeling the considerable effects of these unprecedented circumstances at different levels – not only emotionally, but also in physical and social terms.
How can this emotional challenge in children be addressed?
Special attention must be paid to the children’s emotions of fear, worry, guilt, loneliness, boredom, and anger, with an emphasis on strengthening resilience and offering psychological support to parents and children, a point that has already been emphasized by a number of professionals during this crisis.
Many CMR North Centres of Hope can attest to these impacts. This is supported by the huge demand for food support and the educational needs of children this past year.
This article has been compiled from various research results and other information from the internet. April 2021.
By Neo Mashao
CLICK HERE TO READ STORY OF HOPE: Kamogelo* - a 19-year-old girl, was placed in foster care →
Story of Hope
Kamogelo* is a 19-year-old girl who was placed in foster care with the maternal grandmother when her mother passed in 2009. It has been 12 years since placed in foster care and CMR North Lotus Gardens Centre of Hope has been providing foster care supervision services to date. Kamogelo was included in programs like the holiday program, Teenage camp, therapy groups. The family was provided with psycho- social support throughout this placement.
Kamogelo was one of the top-performing learners in High School and in 2018 she was selected to be part of the PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting firm’s mentorship program and she did well in the program. She passed her matric with good marks in 2019. Kamogelo received a bursary from the City program, She is currently enrolled at University of Johannesburg for a Bsc In Mathematical Sciences.
Kamogelo has always been a child that showed gratitude and always inspired to give back to the community. She started a tutoring program to assist struggling learners with Mathematics around her community.
Kamogelo wrote this in her gratitude letter to the social worker.
“The foster care program has really helped me a lot. Last year was a tough year for my family but it kept me going. You helped me with the application processes and the bursary not to forget the career guidance as well. If it wasn’t for the foster care program and you, I don’t think I’d be here today ( in university) and I am very thankful and appreciative”
This story illustrates how social work services can make a difference in a child’s life. As we continue to save-a-child through our programs, we urge everyone to be part of the child protection week and garner support to all involved in making a difference in a child’s life and raise awareness for child protection.
By Minka Vervat
CLICK HERE TO READ STORY OF HOPE: Feedback on Baby A from our safe parents →
Story of Hope
A mother of 16 years old and her boyfriend were arrested on a charge of assault with the intent to do Grievous Bodily Harm to the baby boy (6 weeks old). A preliminary investigation into the matter revealed that the accused allegedly started to assault the baby only a week after he was born. The baby boy was being placed with temporary safe care parents.
The feedback from our Safety Parents is as follows:
“Baby A is a delightful boy and he rises to any challenge. The word “wortel” causes him to laugh unstoppable. Baby A and their two dogs have developed an interesting relationship and he becomes uncontainably excited when he gets home and hears his little friends barking in the house. The three of them have a special greet that they do every afternoon. Baby A also watches them everywhere they run when we are in the dog park.
He loves to visit the farm. He enjoys being outside and looking at plants and he enjoys touching leaves and feeling what the different leaves feel like.”
“Baby A is becoming a big boy. He had two new experiences with food, one was a teething biscuit and the other was jelly. When playing with a little car, he makes car-like sounds with his lips. He got his first tractor; it’s a John Deere and he loves it.
It is a delight to have Baby A with us. He has brought so much joy to our lives and to the people around us. Baby A is a patient child who enjoys being around the people he loves. Every time he stretches his arms out to us or throws his arms around our necks, we are made so much aware of how amazing he is as a human being. It is an honor to be a part of his life and we greatly appreciate how hard everyone is working to ensure Baby A is given a fair chance to become a contributing human being to a world which is otherwise broken.”
By Rene Pretorius
CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE: 21 Top Tips on Child Protection →
- Child protection is everyone’s business. The responsibility lies with adults in keeping children safe from harm. All members of society need to play a part in ensuring children are nurtured and safe.
- Adults are essential in ensuring children’s safety and well-being.
- Listening to children and young people is the number 1 indicator in assisting their safety and well-being.
- Children and young people are honest. They are unlikely to lie about abuse. They are more likely to stay quiet about abuse or harm than to speak up (especially if they know their abuser).
- Mean or cruel words harm children and young people.
- Understanding why people harm children and young people is essential in helping to prevent child abuse.
- The corruption of children and young people by being forced into acts against their will, including illegal activity harms children and young people.
- Being ignored, going hungry, and feeling and/or being treated as invisible harms children and young people.
- Seeing or directly experiencing domestic and family violence harms children and young people.
- Being physically, verbally, sexually, or emotionally abused harms children and young people.
- Not having health, educational, and other developmental needs met harms children and young people.
- Being groomed for sexual abuse harms children and young people.
- Being forced to do something that feels ‘wrong’ harms children and young people.
- Being forced into situations that feel unsafe harms children and young people.
- Being forced to be with people (even those who are ‘known’ and ‘loved’) who feel unsafe harms children and young people.
- Being forced to be with people who children or young people have stated have abused them, harms children and young people.
- Not being heard when they speak about abuse or trauma harms children and young people.
- Being removed from their home and/or family causes trauma and loss and harms children and young people.
- Knowing they have no voice to speak of how they feel and what they’ve experienced in terms of their safety and well-being harms children and young people.
- Being without the right to make decisions in their life such as where they live, who they visit, and where they spend time harms children and young people.
- Caring for children and keeping them safe is a shared responsibility.
By Ronel Aylward
CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE: Child Trafficking in South Africa: Myths and Facts →
The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in People, Especially Women and Children defines Child trafficking as the ‘recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt’ of a child for the purpose of exploitation. UNICEF (2007:1) further states that ‘A child has been trafficked if she or he has been moved within a country, or across border, whether by force or not, for the purpose of exploiting the child’.
The UP Centre for Child Law (2020:12) classifies trafficked children as “children on the move”, and adds internally displaced persons, asylum seekers and refugees, and migrants to this category. Terre de Homes (cited by the Centre for Child Law, 2020:12) describes children on the move as children who are moving within or between countries for several reasons. This movement can be voluntary or involuntary and might give them access to opportunities but might also make them vulnerable or increase their vulnerability to sexual or economic exploitation, neglect, violence, and abuse. These children move alone or in a group, or with family members or adults who are known or unknown to them.
Some examples of child trafficking given by Briefly (2020) are the following:
X Illegal charity and adoption organisations persuade parents to give their children up for adoption, while the parents are unaware that their children will be sold for slavery.
X Children are forced to become soldiers.
X Some children are forced to beg on the street to generate an income for criminals.
Myths regarding child trafficking in South Africa according to the UP Centre for Child Law (2020) are that it is widespread in the country, that child trafficking into the sex industry is commonplace, and that it is the main vulnerability of children crossing the South African borders.
Briefly (2020) however, states the following facts regarding human trafficking in South Africa:
- South Africa is the hub of human trafficking in Africa because it is instrumental in the illegal transit of people to other continents.
- South African boys are trafficked within the country and are exploited to generate an income from street vending, mining, agricultural activities, and food service jobs. South African girls are forced to become commercial sex workers and domestic workers.
- Human traffickers prevent their victims from escaping through subjecting them to emotional and physical torture, confiscating the victim’s identity documents, social isolation, forcing them into drug addiction, and making them dependent on the traffickers for the drugs.
Briefly (2020) lists the main causes of child (human) trafficking to be stringent immigration laws, high demand for cheap labour, high demand for children for adoption, the profitability of the organ harvesting business, and the thriving of the commercial sex sector and the pornographic film industry.
The following measures can be taken to prevent human(child) trafficking in South Africa:
- South African citizens should make an effort to know what is going on in their environments and look out for themselves and for others.
- They should also limit their interaction with strangers, conduct thorough research regarding job opportunities, refrain from exposing too much personal information on social media and turn on the privacy settings of their electronic communication devices.
- Social isolation should be prevented, and help should be sought to handle stress maturely.
The following support agencies can be contacted if child (human) trafficking is suspected and to obtain emotional support:
- SADAG (South African Depression and Anxiety Group) on 0800 12 13 14, instead of isolating oneself from loved ones.
- Childline if you are a child on 0800 055 555, instead of running away from home.
- South African Police Service (SAPS) on 1011.
- National Human Trafficking Resource Line on 0800 222 777
- Department of Social Development (DSD) Hotline on 0800 220 250
By Jane Phago
CLICK HERE TO READ STORY OF HOPE: Baby back home with Mama →
A beautiful baby girl was born on 6 Dec 2020. The baby was staying with both her parents and older sister, 6 years old. Both parents came to South Africa to look for employment and a better future, however, our social worker received a concerning report from community members.
The allegations were that the biological mother threatened the child and then left the child in the care of her father. The father was also not in the position to take care of the child’s needs as he had to go to work. The father then asked for assistance from other community members, who in turn reported the case to CMR North Child Protection Centre.
After a children’s court proceeding, the children were placed in temporary safe care pending the final investigations of the Court.
The social worker managed to arrange visitations for the parents regularly to strengthen their bond and relationship before the child could be reunited with her mother. The parents thus visited the baby at CMR Daspoort Centre of Hope under supervision. The visits went well, and the temporary safety parents also sent photos of the child on a weekly basis to give to the parents. The parents were also making telephonic contact to check on the wellbeing of the baby. All the visits went well except for the fact that the parents (especially the mother) were very emotional when the child had to leave. It was difficult for the parents to adjust and understand the process of reunification must be completed.
The CMR worked with the parents to encourage them to find alternative accommodation to speed up the process to reunite the child back into the parent’s care.
The parents had two family meetings in order to finalise a parenting plan and in one of the meetings, the paternal grandfather was also involved to assist in the matter. The social worker gave the parents an opportunity to discuss the wellbeing and best interest of the child, they produced a parenting plan and also decided who the child should stay with. After consultation between parents and other relatives, the parents informed the social worker that they had decided that since the couple was separated, the child should stay with her mother, as it was in the best interests of the child.
The father would continue to have contact with the child and to exercise his parental rights and responsibilities in terms of Section 21 of the Children’s Act. The matter was finalized in April 2021 and the child was reunified with her mother.
A positive outcome after the trauma and removal of an innocent baby. The child is finally back with her mother where she belongs.
By Magda Vermaak
CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE: Beskerming/beveiliging van kinders →
Alle ouers meld dat hulle lief is vir hul kinders, maar statistiek bewys dat baie kinders kry seer (fisies en emosioneel) binne hulle huisverband. Dit laat my nadink oor hoe beskerm of beveilig ek my kind?
Onthou kinders het van kleins af hulle eie persoonlikheid, moet gehelp, gelei, gemotiveer en ondersteun word om hulle eie potensiaal te ontwikkel.
Ek as ouer moet eerstens my kind beskerm en dit behels hoe ek self met die lewe omgaan.
Met WIE kuier ek ( het my familie en vriende goeie invloed op my kinders),
HOE kuier ek (die taalgebruik, waardes wat ek uitstraal, plekke wat ek besoek,
dinge waaraan my kind moontlik blootgestel kan word,
goed wat my kind kan sien en hoor is dit ‘n voorbeeld vir my kind).
Weet ek WAAR my kind kuier?
Weet ek veral op selfone MET WIE my kind praat en WAAROOR praat hy/sy.
Is dit ouderdom toepaslike dinge of stel my kind hom/haar bloot aan ‘n wereld wat nie noodwendig goeie bedoelinge het met my kind se reinheid, onskuld en ontwikkelingsfase nie.
Praat met u kind, vertel hom/haar van die gevare in en buite die huis.
Leer hulle om nee te kan se vir verkeerde dinge wat nie in hulle belang is nie.
Ken u kind en weet wat is sy/haar behoeftes.
Kinders leer om in hul huisgesinne te sosialiseer en dit is belangrik dat ouers tyd met jou kind spandeer.
Ons as ouers moet ons kinders se eerste, beste vertroueling wees – Ook sy eerste vertroueling – dat kinders met enige kwelling, vrae, vrees, drome,belewenis van nuwe ervaring met sy ouer eerste deel.
Dit is ‘n groot verantwoordelikheid, uitdaging en toegewydheid wat ouers het om ten alle tye met suiwer intensies hulle kind groot te maak deur leiding en ondersteuning te gee.