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Child Protection in Southern Africa – Focus on South Africa - Developments and Challenges


Child Protection in Southern Africa Focus on South Africa - Developments and Challenges Joan van Niekerk Manager Advocacy and Training, Childline SA – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Child Protection in Southern Africa – Focus on South Africa - Developments and Challenges

Child Protection in Southern Africa Focus on
South Africa - Developments and Challenges
  • Joan van Niekerk
  • Manager Advocacy and Training, Childline SA
  • ISPCAN Councillor

  • This presentation will focus on
  • The Country context in which Child Protection
    Services are offered
  • Recent developments in law and policy that frame
    and drive Child Protection in South Africa
  • Conclusions and recommendations emerging from
    recent research into how the Child Protection
    System is functioning in practice.

The Country and Region
  • South Africa
  • Is strategically significant in terms of
    geographical position and developed economy in
    relation to other countries in the Southern
    African region although it remains a developing
  • This attracts the attention of and funding from
    the big powers eg the USA.
  • However this attention and input is not always
    driven by real needs on the ground but
    sometimes by self interest.

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South Africa
  • Has areas, flora and fauna that is breath-taking
    in its beauty
  • This has contributed to high levels of tourism
    and activities related to tourism
  • Tourism contributed to the development of our
    economy and contributed to job creation in
    impoverished and rural communities as well as in
    cities and towns

South Africa the economy
  • According to the Human Development Index South
    Africa has one of the fastest growing gaps
    between the rich and the poor, and since the
    demise of apartheid has seen the development of a
    small black economic elite.
  • However most economists and social analyists
    agree that the policy of Black Economic
    Empowerment has benefitted a small select and
    politically connected group and that the bulk of
    the population, previously disadvantaged by the
    policy of Apartheid (separate development) remain

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South Africa the economy
  • Unemployment remains high at about 40 and
    since the advent of the World Soccer Cup, job
    losses continue to rise.
  • At present there are about 5.8 million taxpayers
    who are employed supporting about 13 million
    social grant recipients an unsustainable

The HIV and AIDS Pandemic
  • South Africa has the highest number of HIV and
    AIDS infected persons of any country in the world
  • About 16 of our population is infected
  • The impact on children is enormous and
    orphanhood either the loss of a mother/father
    or both has compromised the lives of almost 2
    million children
  • Research indicates that the loss of a mother is
    more significant because of non-support and the
    absence of fathers.

The impact of the HIV and AIDS Pandemic
  • The crisis of orphanhood had a huge impact on the
    child protection system
  • Resources were diverted into providing some
    institutional and mainly foster care for orphaned
  • This led to the neglect of child abuse and the
    intentional neglect of children until the link
    between orphanhood and rising levels of abuse and
    intentional neglect was acknowledged.

South Africa the continued impact of apartheid
  • The impact of apartheid on family life and the
    care and protection of children was, and
    continues to be enormous
  • Migrant labour and the pass law system separated
    economically active men and women from their
    families particularly men
  • This, combined with urbanisation negatively
    impacted on the extended family unit which
    historically provided a safety net for children.

Developments since the demise of Apartheid
  • With the demise of apartheid and the advent of
    democracy, South Africa was accepted back into
    the international community
  • This enabled the country to become a signatory to
    the UN Convention
  • However much of the law and policy regulating the
    care and protection of children had been
    developed under the apartheid system and
    therefore compromised the care and protection of
  • Child Protection services were unevenly

The process of improving child protection services
  • In order to address the inequalities and problems
    in the field of child care and protection South
    Africa embarked on a process of
  • comprehensive law reform.
  • Costing services and assessing available
  • Developing norms and standards for service
  • Moving towards the improvement of implementation
  • Monitoring and evaluating implementation of law,
    policy and implementation

Law and Policy Reform
  • Three laws focussing on the care and protection
    of children were developed
  • The Childrens Act providing for the civil
    aspects of development, care, preventive
    services, early intervention, statutory care and
    placement and services to promote the
    rehabilitation and reintegration of families
    where appropriate.

Law and Policy Reform
  • The Child Justice Act providing for the special
    care, protection, rehabilitation and
    reintegration of children in conflict with the
  • The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related
    Matters) Amendment Act extending the range and
    definitions of sexual crimes against children,
    and establishing more child friendly processes
    relating to the management of child victims of
    sexual crimes.

Law and Policy Reform
  • The National HIV and AIDS Strategic plan was
    formulated . This
  • Recognised the particular vulnerability of
  • Rolled out an improved prevention of mother to
    child infection programme
  • Rolled out a comprehensive ARV programme for HIV
    and AIDS infected adults and children
  • Rolled out a national HIV and AIDS testing
    programme to improve early detection and care of
    infected persons

Law and Policy reform
  • The HIV and AIDS National Strategic Plan has
    demonstrated positive benefits.
  • The latest national health and social development
    statistics indicate that
  • The rate of infection appears to have bottomed
  • Infections of children at birth or through
    breastfeeding have reduced
  • The rate of orphaning has slowed

Law Reform
  • Whilst many child protection professionals
    believe that law reform has brought many benefits
    to Child Protection, there are those that believe
    that the process did not go far enough.
  • Many of the earlier drafts of legislation were
    more comprehensive.
  • However political and economic interests
    contributed to the removal of significant
    provisions for example more comprehensive
    social security for children, the Childrens

Some of the issues raised today
  • Corporal punishment banned in schools and all
    public institutions but still very common in
  • Mandatory reporting differs across the three
    pieces of legislation limited in the Childrens
    Act, universal in the Sexual offences Act
  • Registers provisions overlap resulting in
    multiple registers
  • Strong emphasis on prevention and early
  • Strong emphasis on justice responses to child
  • Registry rarely used.

Paper Tigers?
  • Law reform is all very well but unless
    implemented is what might be called a paper
  • Eg mandated reporting reporting into a vacuum
    may put the child further at risk.
  • Also embedding child protection services in
    justice processes is very limiting.

Implementation of Law and Policy in relation to
Child Protection
  • Although passed in 2005, the implementation of
    the Childrens Act was delayed until April 2010.
  • Contributing factors included
  • Delays in the development of policy to drive
  • The deteriorating global and national economic
    situation, which contributed to the lack of
    resources for implementaion
  • The focus on preparations for the World Soccer
    Cup further diverted scarce resources to this

Implementation of Law and Policy in relation to
Child Protection
  • One of the most retro-gressive steps in child
    protection service provision over the past decade
    was the disbanding of the South African Police
    Service Child Protection Units despite active
    lobbying from Child Protection Experts.
  • As a result of the public pressure, the units
    were to be re-instated in April 2010 this did
    not occur and a further reinstatement date has
    been committed April 2011.

Implementation The Childrens Act
  • Remains slow and piecemeal
  • Remains compromised by
  • the lack of resources - both financial and
    trained and competent personnel
  • A lack of training on the Act itself of the
    range and number of child protection personnel
    who are responsible for implementation
  • Government has embarked on developing and
    implementing a policy to develop and retain
    Scarce Skills which includes the training and
    deployment of social workers in particular.

Implementation The Child Justice Act
  • Implementation began on 1st April 2010 but has
    been hampered by
  • Scarce resources especially diversion
    programmes for children diverted away from
    criminal justice processes into remedial care
  • A lack of training of implementing role-players
  • A national research effort has been established
    to identify further factors in slow
    implementation and make recommendations to
    address this.

Implementation The Sexual Offences Act
  • Implementation began on 1st April 2008.
  • Child protection workers have generally welcomed
    the new definitions of sexual crimes against
  • However again there are challenges in
    implementation that do compromise the care,
    protection and healing of children.

These challenges include (inter alia)
  • Corruption in the criminal justice system
  • The lack of specialised Child Protection Police
    resulting in poor investigation practices that
    are not child friendly
  • The time delays experienced in bringing matters
    to trial or conclusion this stretches into
    years for most children
  • The belief among some child protection workers
    and prosecutors that therapy should be delayed
    until court processes have been concluded.

Further challenges
  • Although integrated response protocols to child
    abuse and neglect were developed in the late
    1990s these policies were not universally
    implemented at the time, have never been updated,
    and have generally fallen into disuse.

Recent research into the Child Protection System
in SA
  • Conducted in 2009/10
  • In all provinces
  • Focussed groups of Child Protection Personnel
    across all disciplines police, prosecutors,
    judicial officers, social workers, health
    workers, traditional leaders, etc.
  • Questionnaires
  • Children both inside and outside of the CPS
  • Foster and Safe House Care Parents

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Recent research into the Child Protection System
in SA - Conclusions
  • There is a strong commitment from many who work
    in the child protection system in South Africa to
    contributing to strengthening effective proactive
    and reactive child protection systems and
    activities. Most of the participants in this
    study reflected a sincere commitment to the
    protection of childrens rights

Research conclusions
  • There are many positives in the present system
    that can be built on and extended.
  • However the system at present is uncoordinated,
    with a lack of clear provincial and district

Research conclusions
  • The lack of functional and updated protocols and
    coordinating systems contribute to a lack of
    coordination, collaboration, communication,
    accountability, possible duplication and
    unaddressed gaps in services that should be
    providing comprehensive protection of the rights
    of children and the appropriate responses and
    care of children whose rights have been

Research Conclusions
  • The lack of record keeping and information
    management, inclusive of the low level of
    reporting to the child protection register,
    contributes to the difficulties in assessing the
    need for resources for child protection services
    and planning the deployment of what (limited)
    resources do exist.

Research conclusions
  • An absence of clear monitoring and evaluation
    mechanisms shared by all role-players in the
    child protection system contributes to a lack of
    clear knowledge as to what interventions really
    work and are efficient and effective in all 4
    pillars of child protection services
    prevention, early intervention, statutory
    intervention and rehabilitation and
    reintegration. This results in those resources
    that are available not being used in the most
    cost efficient and effective manner.

Research Conclusions
  • Children with disability and in rural areas
    remain marginalised with regard to service
  • Corruption and intimidation of role-players,
    communities, families and children interfere with
    the protection of childrens rights in the
    majority of provinces.

Research Conclusions
  • Political agendas appear to interfere with the
    optimal use of what resources do exist and there
    is a lack of passionate political will and
    leadership relating to the protection of
    childrens rights. Strong political leadership is
    needed to drive implementation of law and policy,
    ensure that adequate resources are committed to
    implementation and that all role-players in the
    child protection system are held accountable for
    their performance or lack thereof.

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Recommendations that emerged from the study
  • The conclusions and recommendations of the Global
    Study are more widely distributed in South
  • Political leaders in government are lobbied
    actively to remind them of South Africas
    commitment to the protection of childrens rights
    through the ratification of the United Nations
    Convention on the Rights of the Child, the
    African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the
    Child, and their participation in the United
    Nations commitment to implement the
    recommendations of the Global Study on Violence
    Against Children. Children must be put high on
    the agenda of politicians.

  • A further scrutiny of law and policy is required
    to ensure that South Africas domestic
    legislation and policy complies with the
    comprehensive protection of childrens rights and
    the protection of children from ALL forms of
    violence, including neglect.
  • There is an urgent need to re-establish
    inter-sector child protection committees in all
    the provinces and districts, and to ensure that
    these committees are inclusive of representatives
    of all sectors, including civil society
    organisations. As it is recognised that
    government structures are sometimes challenged
    with implementing, coordinating and managing
    these committees, it is recommended that the
    committee structures are co-chaired and
    co-managed by civil society.

  • Child protection committees at every level must
    meet regularly, minute their meetings, distribute
    these minutes and document their activities to
    ensure accountability and facilitate broad
    participation. All sectors should be given the
    opportunity to contribute to the agendas of
    meetings and participate in meetings. 
  • The Child Protection Protocols must be
    resurrected, revisited, revised, and committed
    to. All sectors involved in child protection
    services must be invited to participate in this
    process and political leaders and
    Directors-General of key government sectors need
    to be brought on board in order to ensure that
    the protocols are not paper tigers but are
    implemented and all role-players are held
    accountable for non-compliance.

  • and information management must be implemented to
    ensure that South Africas scarce resources are
    applied in the most effective, and cost-efficient
    programmes and processes.
  • Anonymous reporting of child rights violations
    should be actively followed up, and a clear and
    effective whistle-blowing policy and opportunity
    should be provided to assist with the eradication
    of corruption and intimidation.

  • Current prevention strategies must be evaluated
    for their effectiveness and efficiency. Mass
    Campaigns in particular require evaluation.
    Scarce resources must be used for those
    prevention strategies that contribute to
    effective prevention of child abuse. More well
    resourced activities, and programmes need to be
    directed at prevention and early intervention in
    order to prevent the greater costs (both
    financial and to the optimal development of
    children and family life) of statutory
    intervention, rehabilitation and reintegration.

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Thank you !