When kids are in charge

2011-04-05 00:00

ALMOST 100 000 South African children are living in child-headed homes, according to a new report by the SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) released yesterday.

Family project manager of SAIRR, Lucy Holborn said, 81% of the 98 000 children living in child-headed households where all the members are younger than 18, have a mother living.

“The heart-breaking thing is that some of the children have parents, but they can’t live with them because in most cases the mother has to go somewhere else to find a job and then these children have to be left alone,” said Holborn.

Not all children who are living in child-headed families receive assistance from the Social Development Department, said the report.

There are many factors that lead to child-headed homes such as the deaths of parents, often from Aids.

Labour migration adds to the problem where parents have to find jobs in cities especially when they live in rural areas, and alcohol and drug abuse are other contributing factors.

Holborn said the country is far from winning the battle because family issues are not included in the political agenda in parliament.

“We’ve already sent the report to all relevant departments so that they can do something about it. Family is usually not viewed as one of the outcomes of violence, abuse and other societal issues, but it is,” Holborn added.

Commenting on the report, clinical psychologist Adele Romanis said children who run their homes often miss out on the opportunity of “being children”.

“These children are thrust into a life of huge responsibility. Their childhood is taken away from them and not by choice. They may turn out not to trust others, leading them to a very isolated life,” said Romanis.

The report also revealed that children who head homes have much lower school attendance than children living with their parents or other care givers, and levels of poverty were higher. A total of 47% have a monthly household expenditure of less than R400.

“These children are missing an opportunity to see the world through the child’s eyes where life is fun,” said Romanis.

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