Study highlights SA’s ‘fractured’ child protection system

2016-06-02 16:41


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Cape Town – South Africa’s first nationally representative study on child maltreatment has put the spotlight on the current system aimed at protecting children.

After surveying workers in both state and non-state organisations, it was found that most child protection agencies worked in silos.

“It is a fractured system which delays justice and it is often too hard [for victims] to get the help that they really need,” Professor Catherine Ward, one of the authors of the Optimus study, shared in a briefing on Thursday.

The “Optimus Study: Sexual Victimisation of Children in South Africa” was commissioned by the UBS Optimus Foundation and conducted by researchers from the University of Cape Town and the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention.

A technical report on the study stated the data implied that young people tended not to report child abuse or maltreatment.

When they did, the “trajectory of criminal justice, psychosocial support and child protection services” was not as effective as intended by local laws, policies and regulations.

The study found that one in every three young South Africans had experienced some form of sexual abuse in their lives.

At the briefing in Cape Town, many workers in the sector shared that the findings were “proof” of the reality of their cases.

One of the concerns raised was how it was possible for traumatised and overloaded social workers to heal broken children.

Lack of funding was another concern. 

While social development MEC Albert Fritz spoke, some people rubbed their fingers together to indicate the need for money.

“We can prevent this abuse before it occurs and we hope this is one of the messages you will take home from this study,” emphasised Ward, an associate professor in the University of Cape Town’s psychology department.

She said good parent-teen relationships played a role in preventing child sexual abuse.

Parenting programmes should be more widely available.

Housing that provided for separate bedrooms for girls should be an important consideration for parents and state bodies providing housing. 

“We also need to work with schools to prevent and deal with violence and abuse.”

Read more on:    uct  |  albert fritz  |  cape town  |  child abuse

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