Spotlight on Child Protection in May

Abuse, neglect, abandonment and being caught in the cross fire, are some of the issues faced by children, especially in the Western Cape.

Two weeks ago, a 16-year-old girl died after being caught in a crossfire between rival gangs in Athlone. Earlier this year, 12-year-old Firdous Kleinsmidt was also caught in a gang crossfire in Mitchell’s Plain. Meanwhile, it has been more than two months that Joshlin Smith was reported missing and there’s unfortunately still no sign of the whereabouts of the 6-year-old girl from Saldahna Bay. Four suspects, including her mother, has been arrested in relation to the girl’s disappearance.

Wednesday marked the beginning of Child Protection Month, and according to the Western Cape’s Social Development Department, between April and December 2023, the Department collectively recorded more than 7 800 cases of deliberate neglect (2603), emotional and physical abuse (2801), and sexual abuse (2415).

‘’[This] required the completion of a Form 22* as per the requirement of the Children’s Act. When incidents like these occur, the DSD staff or Designated Child Protection Organisations step in as per the Children’s Act to protect the wellbeing and dignity of these vulnerable children,” says Sharna Fernandez, Western Cape Social Development MEC.

A Form 22 is a formal way to report child abuse in any form to the Department of Social Development, the South African Police Service, or a Designated Child Protection Organisation.

Fernandez lamented the lack of protection for children’s rights.

“Some adults forget that children have rights too and it is the responsibility of institutions like the Western Cape Department of Social Development to step in when these rights are infringed upon. Section 28 states that every child has the right ‘to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation’. Parents and guardians, you are responsible for your children, and where you may need support, the team in DSD can assist… Unfortunately, there are many cases of parents or guardians letting children down, by abusing, neglecting, or abandoning them.’’

"It is unacceptable that we have parents, guardians, and caregivers who callously ignore the rights of a child. All children deserve love, care, and protection. And government cannot do this alone. When children are failed by their parents or guardians, the whole society is needed to step in and support. What we need is more kind and caring members of society raising their hands to become safety or foster parents. If you can give a vulnerable child a safe and caring home, I encourage you to contact the Department for more information TODAY,” added Sharna Fernandez, Western Cape Social Development MEC.

The provincial department says by the end of March 2024, there were 40 043 children in the foster system.

‘’If a child has been abused, deliberately neglected, or exploited, they may be placed in foster care following a court order. This is to provide temporary care and protection until the child can be reunified with their original family,’’ said Fernandez.

‘’There are also safety parents that provide temporary care of no more than six children, except where children are siblings, for up to 90 days. Emergency parents provide temporary safe care for between 24 and 48 hours,’’ she added.

Fernandez says her department will ramp up its awareness-raising initiatives about child abuse and the preventive measures the department offers.


Done By: Mitchum George


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