Act brings hope to vulnerable children

2009-03-24 00:00

There is new hope for vulnerable children in South Africa in the form of the new Children’s Act, to be implemented soon.

“The act places a new emphasis on prevention and early intervention,” said Dr Jackie Loffell, advocacy co-ordinator at the Johannesburg Child Welfare Society.

“The act also stipulates that national and provincial plans for a range of essential child and family welfare services must be drawn up and implemented by relevant departments. All aspects of the delivery of such services are covered. ‘Drop-in’ centres for street children where basic help can be sought and counselling provided will now be regulated and an adequate number of them must be planned for in every province,” said Loffell.

Most importantly, she said, the act holds out hope for the chronically underfunded child and family service sector.

“The act also binds government to the provision of funding for services. Although it does not stipulate the level of funding that will be supplied, it is a welcome innovation for a sector that is currently battling to cope with increasing demand for services on one side and inadequate government and private financial support on the other. The new act would further assist by providing child welfare bodies with a firm legal basis to lobby government for additional funding where it was required,” Loffell said.

The act also recognises the rights of specific groups, like child-headed households, children needing protection from maltreatment and children needing adoptive or foster parents.

“The number of child-headed households is growing rapidly —far beyond the capability of the child welfare sector to render services by taking all children impacted on into care. The act caters for this by recognising the rights of child-headed families to remain where they are, but stipulates that they must receive assistance from an adult. Access to welfare payments, day-care for pre-school children and many other forms of support are offered through programmes targeting these households.”

The act also incorporates the Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoption, which is thereby fully integrated into South African law. It formalises the administrative structures required to manage such adoptions.

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