The seminar focussed on identifying the barriers, and brainstorm solutions, to intervention services and family preservation that may positively impact the life of street children. “Today we are on a level playing field . . . , we can only benefit the children on the street” said social worker Marion Thomas in her welcoming address.
Presenters included the Department of Social Development (DSD) who works closely with the MID in addressing the challenges faced in Muizenberg as highlighted during a joint after-hours operation in early 2017.
The DSD presentation on the Children’s Act emphasised the importance of following due process in terms of assessments. Recognising that intervention cannot take place in isolation ince the assessment process involves the family unit. Including all children and extended family support options, especially if the assessment results in a court enquiry.
Most importantly, according to Section 7 and Section 9 of the Children’s Act.
“In all matters concerning the care, protection and well-being of a child the standard that the child’s best interest is of paramount importance, must be applied.” Therefore intervention and support focusses on the child within the family context where child protection and family preservation are regarded as of equal importance.
The four levels of intervention:
- Prevention / Awareness: Give responsibly and eradicate the incentive, recreational facilities and after school care programmes
- Early Intervention: Identify risk factors and build on enhanced protective factors e.g. surf therapy, educational programmes and skills development. Provide containment and care.
- Statutory: The removal and placement of children into care.
- Reintegration: Through programmes such as Lindelani or family/community of origin.
Unfortunately, when it comes to street children, the third level of intervention is often difficult due to the pathology that a street child may present with. Here, a specialised level of care and protection is required and few safety parents are equipped to provide this.
DSD also noted that parents need capacity support when their children start presenting with challenging behaviour. They don’t necessarily want their children to be removed from their care, and need assistance. This, a strategic priority for the Department of Social Development who has implemented a programme dedicated to the care and protection of families. Focussing on capacitating families to become resilient through providing support structures at various levels.
The Child Justice Act was also discussed in great detail by DSD appointed social worker and probation officer. Once a child has been arrested, an assessment is conducted to assess the child’s criminogenic needs and whether the child has criminal capacity.
“Can a child be diverted away from the criminal justice system”, the big question when an assessment and enquiry is conducted.
Highlighted was the need for strict procedures to be followed once a child is arrested, i.e. SAPS must immediately contact the DSD appointed social worker or probation officer in order to ensure the necessary procedures are followed in terms of the Child Justice Act.
“To be a child in South Africa is to walk a fragile path to adulthood” – UNICEF (2009b, 10)
Shaun Solomons, through his personal journey as a street child, shared how fragile this path to adulthood is. Growing up in an environment surrounded by criminals, drugs, gangsterism and poverty, he found himself addicted to drugs at the age of fifteen. A street child.
His life however changed when he was introduced to a local early childhood development centre and started getting involved in outreach activities. He started considering an alternative life when he realised that life outside of his community is very different to his everyday reality. He chose a different path, finished school and continued with outreach work.
Today Shaun is part of the intervention process. Through his work at local NPO Projects Abroad, he can positively engage with street children and offer them an alternative to strolling the streets. Surfing.
Whilst the seminar may have ended on an encouraging note, the realities faced by children on the streets remain troubling. In need of care and protection, a risk to themselves as society often do not view a street child as a child.
Prevention and intervention advocacy and support, an ongoing work in progress that will be done in collaboration with those present at the seminar.
Contact the Department of Social Development, toll free on 0800 220 250 should you know of a child in need of care and protection. Alternatively email firstname.lastname@example.org.