Concerns of street children cannot be addressed without focussing on the family structure. The volatile communities from which the children escape provide them with an opportunity to roam and beg on the streets. In these situations, giving a hand-out may contribute towards further vulnerability of children as they start viewing the streets as a safer option. However, it opens them up to exploitation.
In a recent meeting between the MID, Department of Social Development (DSD) and SAPS, it was agreed to meet in April to brainstorm creative methods that can assist with strengthening the family unit. In the hope of keeping children off the streets. This session aims to look at how best to collaborate in the best interest of the child and will include Law Enforcement. These are key partners when addressing the vulnerability of the child and their risk of a life on the street specifically for children moving between the Muizenberg and Simon’s Town areas.
We’ve seen the positive impact that family strengthening has had by walking the road alongside a parent for a year. During this time support, guidance and referrals resulted in the parent leaving a domestically volatile relationship and finding alternative school placement for the children. The re-placement at school has assisted with addressing the behavioural challenges that were predisposing the child to a life on the street. During this process poverty impacted significantly on access to social work support and often counselling was done telephonically. This case refers to one of the families who were impacted by the urgent intervention that ensured safe placement of seven street children who were living on the MID streets.
“Giving a child a pathway off the street not only changes a life, but impacts on the family” – says MID social worker, Marion Thomas.
Families living on the street with young children have also been referred to DSD, in one particular case DSD and Law Enforcement worked together to assist with the assessment of young children reported to be living on the streets. These interventions are the most difficult because no matter what – the bond between parent and child cannot be ignored. Poverty is not a good enough reason to remove a child from the care of their parents if their basic needs are still being met. In these situations the parent and child is often taken to the home of a family member who confirms residence and this then becomes a DSD case for monitoring and evaluation.
There is always much more to what is seen on the street – sometimes it takes years to establish a relationship of trust with the person living on the streets, families and stakeholders before reunification or rehabilitation can take place. The first step to assist a family is always to act within the best interest of the child concerned and to strengthen the family during this process with ongoing support.
The MID Open Door Social Work service is available on Thursday’s between 9am and 1pm. This is a free community service at the MID office inside the Muizenberg Clinic Building.
The Muizenberg Improvement District [MID] is a geographic area where property owners have contracted to pay a levy to facilitate a joint effort by the City of Cape Town and the local community to ensure more effective management of public areas and to promote business confidence.The MID supplements normal municipal services provided by the City, using its funds to deal with public safety, enhance the environment and address social issues like vagrancy and finding workable solutions for the homeless. The Muizenberg Improvement District is a legal entity established under the City’s Special Rating Areas by-law and also governed by the South African Companies Act 2008.