'We need to do our research, learn from our mistakes': Arise shares their stance on the proposed changes to the Children’s Act

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"Too few of our foster children have any plan for permanency and too many of our children are left in children’s homes."
"Too few of our foster children have any plan for permanency and too many of our children are left in children’s homes."

The Arise Family Centre is based in Cape Town and is made up of psychologists and social workers aiming to assist underprivileged communities. Here they offer their take on the proposed amendments to the Children's Act. 

"Child protection in this country is not working"

Arise opposes this bill because while we recognize that our system needs change, we would advocate to develop, improve and strengthen existing partnerships between the Department of Social Development (DSD) and private agencies who are serving children already in the system.

We would also advocate for a greater investment in family strengthening and preservation through upskilling and training social workers, rather than disadvantaging children in a system which is already failing them.

The reality is that child protection in this country is not working. We know first-hand the crushing caseload our statutory service social workers are experiencing. We know the journey our clients walk when they are let down by a system that is too under-resourced and overburdened to give them the basic services, they are due.

We have seen the band-aids that the system puts on the problem and get frustrated when we see little being done to break the cycle of broken relationships and to ensure our children (all children) have a strong sense of belonging within their families. Too little is being done to strengthen, preserve and protect our families.

Too little is done to reunify families, when our children are placed in foster care. Too few of our foster children have any plan for permanency and too many of our children are left in children’s homes, left on the street, or left in unsafe places because our child protection system is overwhelmed. 

If this Bill is passed in its current format, we are concerned that our already overburdened social workers will not have the adequate time, resources, or experience to sensitively handle our adoptions in South Africa.

We are left asking will they be able to take into account the tasks of attachment and loss; the importance of identity; the needs of the entire adoption triad and the multitude of complex issues which needs to be addressed when placing a child in permanent care? Permanency for every child living in institutional care in South Africa must be a realistic and urgent goal.

Also see: OPINION: "Amendments to the Child Care Act will have a damaging effect on adoption in South Africa"

"We understand the concern that not enough is done by private adoption"

Yet, we believe too that DSD has a valid argument in wanting to see changes to the Children’s Act. While, it is true that they have not adequately, or timeously allowed for consultation with all relevant stakeholders in the adoption space; there are still some points here worth reflection.

We agree with the view that adoption should be seen as a means of protecting the best interests of children by placing them with permanent and suitable families. 

We also agree that adoption should be seen as a child protection issue. We understand the concern that not enough is done by private adoption social workers and adoption agencies to preserve and reunify families.  DSD have also stated that they believe the current high fees make adoption unaffordable for some families, who may have been a better match for the child. 

We believe we need to be looking at ways to partner together to make adoption more accessible and create permanency for all our children.  

Arise believes that in order to ensure that we are truly doing the best for children in need of permanency, we need to actively participate with stakeholders, with adult adoptees, and with children who grew up in institutions.

We need to do our research, learn from our mistakes, openly discuss and work together to guarantee that we do our utmost to keep families together and ensure children are placed in thriving families. 

You can add your voice to the petition that calls for the Children’s Act Amendment bill to be withdrawn and reworked here.

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