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Child Protection in Southern Africa – Focus on South Africa - Developments and Challenges. Joan van Niekerk Manager Advocacy and Training, Childline SA ISPCAN Councillor. Introduction. This presentation will focus on The Country context in which Child Protection Services are offered
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Child Protection in Southern Africa – Focus on South Africa - Developments and Challenges Joan van Niekerk Manager Advocacy and Training, Childline SA ISPCAN Councillor
Introduction • 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 country. • 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.
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 impoverished.
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 situation.
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 children • 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 history • 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 children. Child Protection services were unevenly distributed
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 resources • Developing norms and standards for service provision • 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 Children’s 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 Law • 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 children • 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 out” • 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 Children’s Umbudsman.
Some of the issues raised today • Corporal punishment – banned in schools and all public institutions – but still very common in schools • Mandatory reporting – differs across the three pieces of legislation – limited in the Children’s Act, universal in the Sexual offences Act • Registers – provisions overlap – resulting in multiple registers • Strong emphasis on prevention and early intervention • Strong emphasis on justice responses to child abuse • Registry – rarely used.
Paper Tigers? • Law reform is all very well – but unless implemented is what might be called a “paper tiger” • 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 Children’s Act was delayed until April 2010. • Contributing factors included • Delays in the development of policy to drive implementation • 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 event
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 Children’s 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 children. 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 1990’s 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
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 children’s 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 leadership.
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 compromised.
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 delivery. • Corruption and intimidation of role-players, communities, families and children interfere with the protection of children’s 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 children’s 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.
Recommendations that emerged from the study • The conclusions and recommendations of the Global Study are more widely distributed in South Africa. • Political leaders in government are lobbied actively to remind them of South Africa’s commitment to the protection of children’s 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.
Recommendations • A further scrutiny of law and policy is required to ensure that South Africa’s domestic legislation and policy complies with the comprehensive protection of children’s rights and the protection of children from ALL forms of violence, including neglect. • There is an urgent need to re-establish inter-sector child protectioncommittees 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.
Recommendations • 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.
Recommendations • and information management must be implemented to ensure that South Africa’s 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.
Recommendations • 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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