Red tape hinders the speedy placement of children in distress, according to the manager of Tongaat Child and Family Welfare, Jo Moodley.
She said that in moments of crisis, children need immediate and safe temporary placement, but accredited facilities for children are obliged to fill in piles of paperwork for children to be placed with them.
She said children walk through the doors of child protection agencies carrying physical scars, bruises, cuts, burn marks and the emotional scars of their abuse or abandonment; and due to some cases being brought to the attention of the society late in the day, this puts social workers in the difficult position of securing appropriate placement of children with screened caregivers at short notice.
Out of this urgent need, the idea of the Pure Hearts Safe House was born in the North Coast area of Tongaat.
Based in an undisclosed location, the home, which is almost complete, will provide immediate refuge for children under the age of 18, who are brought to the Tongaat Child Welfare Society.
Children can be immediately placed in the home after their medical screening and compatibility screening with regard to other children in the home.
The home contains a therapy room and play corner that will cater to the specific needs of each child housed there.
The home is also designed to prevent any possible interaction by the people the children are being protected from. There will also be no visitors to the safe house, visits by family will take place off site, facilitated by the society.
Speaking on the purpose of the house, Moodley said that they face a lot of red tape challenges regarding placing children brought to them, especially with department facilities that require a court order before placing them at the facility.
Even if the children have relatives, they need to be vetted prior to placing children with them in order to prevent any further abuse from occurring.
“What’s happening is that we have been placing them temporarily with people [screened foster families]. But we can’t guarantee how safe that placement is. With the safehouse we know it’s a safe facility, it’s our facility, we know we’re going to take every measure.
“Also, with foster parents, they have other children, and we have to consider whether the children are going to be compatible with each other; whether it’s going to be secondary abuse for the child if something happens. With the safe house we can control the environment,” said Moodley.
Speaking on the hopes for the Pure Hearts Safe House, Moodley said: “It’s a double-edged sword. We hope that we don’t have to remove children, we hope that children aren’t abandoned, we rather be able to intervene when they’re safe rather than being dumped. We want the house to be used for its purpose, but we also don’t want child abuse to increase.”
Moodley adds that there is need for more places of safety for children in Tongaat, as the safe house is not a cluster foster scheme and can only accommodate the children temporarily.
She said that everybody needs to protect children and urged the public to always report abuse and neglect that they may see.