Children's Act implementation: progress report; Child Protection Programmes in the Western Cape

NCOP Health and Social Services

24 August 2009
Chairperson: Ms R Rasmeni (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Social Development provided an update on progress made in the implementation of the Children’s Act, giving detail on the regulation-making process necessary for the implementation of the Act. A definite date for finalisation of regulations could not be given, but the Department believed it would be by the end of this month. A briefing was given on Child Protection Programmes in the Western Cape. Main topics discussed by the Committee were implications of the Children’s Act, delay in finalisation of regulations, and training of social workers. Other topics discussed were urban-rural disparity, adoption, foster care, abduction and intervention centres. The Department was currently developing legislation for funding of non-governmental organisations which would decrease disparity between provinces.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed delegates from the Department of Social Development, as well as the members of the Committee, stakeholders, and media before asking members and delegates to introduce themselves.

Progress in implementation of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005 as amended
The Director-General in the Department of Social Development, Mr Vusi Madonsela, introduced Dr Maria Mabetoa, Deputy Director General: Welfare, Department of Social Development (DSD), who presented an overview of the progress on the implementation of the Act. This presentation included: the Act’s background and summary, its regulations, the costing, implementation of the Act and future plans, backlog in current service delivery, the Intersectoral Steering Committee and the National Child Care and Protection Forum (CCPF), Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E), Training, National Policy Framework and Strategy, communication material, norms, standards and practice guidelines, and the way forward.

Before implementation of the Act, the DSD and the Department of Justice (DOJ) had to draw up regulations. The draft regulations were approved by the Select Committee on Social Services and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on 17 and 19 March 2009 respectively. The DSD had to submit the draft regulations to those Ministers and departments that had obligations under the Act as well as to the State Law Advisors. Their proposals had to be incorporated. The Office of the State Law Advisor reviewed and certified the Regulations in May 2009.

Further, the Children’s Act created additional responsibility on the state to develop a range of new services, with prevention and early intervention as a primary concern. Other new services included partial care, child and youth care centres and drop-in centres. This meant a greater state capacity for registration and monitoring of these services, and the responsibility would extend to other departments such as SAPS, Department of Health (DOH), DOJ, Department of Education, and Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG). The Intersectoral Children’s Act Steering Committee would include DSD, DOH, DOE, Home Affairs, Department of Correctional Services (DCS), the Office on the Rights of the Child, Treasury, Department of Justice (DOJ), SAPS, Unicef, Foreign Affairs and DPLG.

In February 2008, DSG launched the CCPF which extended membership of the Children’s Bill to National non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and additional Departments such as Arts and Culture, Sports and Recreation, Housing and Transport.

The first phase of the finalised framework of M&E of the implementation of the Children’s Act involved 210 indicators, 60 of which were prioritised for the 1st year of implementation. It would monitor and evaluate the quality of services, access to services, the impact of the Act and improvements in quality of life for children.

Training guidelines for the implementation of the Act were divided into three phases. Phase one included orientation training, phase two intermediate phase training and phase 3 advanced phase training. Phase one and two had been finalised, while phase three would be finalised by the end of September 2009. DSD had received approval for phase one by the South African Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP) and Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

In conjunction with USAID, DSD was in the process of drafting a national policy framework and strategy to ensure that the Act was implemented in a coordinated and integrated manner, to be finalised by the end of August 2009. In addition, USAID was supporting DSD with the development of a training DVD on the Children’s Act and UNICEF was sponsoring the development of three child-friendly/low literacy booklets on the Act.

Outstanding objectives were the finalisation of regulations, enhancement and development of the Child Protection Register (CPR), establishment of the National Register of Children for Adoption and Prospective Adoptive Parents (RACAP), promotion of local adoptions, and establishment of service delivery protocols.

Dr M Mabetoa concluded that successful implantation of the Children’s Act relied on the cooperation and coordination between different stakeholders and professionals.

Adv Putsoletso Loselo, Chief Director: Legal Services, outlined the process that unfolded over the past 3 weeks. Input from stakeholders on the draft regulations were examined with the view to ensure that provisions in the regulations were in line with the Act. A number of provisions in the regulations were not in the Act, and therefore they were removed without affecting the original intent of the regulations. That process had been finalised and the department expected that by the end of this month, it would have completed its task and could submit the draft regulations to the National Treasury for their concurrence. He recommended that the regulations be cross referenced as there were a number of amendments to sections of the draft. He believed that once the Act was in operation, then they should set out to amend the Act and incorporate regulations which were necessarily omitted.

Ms B Mncube (ANC, Gauteng) asked if there were time lines planned for the provinces to address the backlogs in service delivery and what exactly was meant by promotion of local adoption. With regard to amendment of regulations, she asked if the Department had indirectly aligned regulations to the next amendment.

Mr T Mashamaite (ANC, Limpopo) asked how DSD would deal with disparity found in child protection organisations and if the CCPF was playing a role at national and provincial level. Further, he was concerned that if there was a delay in finalisation of regulations there would be a vacuum between delivery of regulations and implementation of the Act. He asked if
Adv Loselo could commit to a time frame for the finalisation of the regulations.

Mr M Wiley (Provincial Legislature) asked if any deadlines were set by Parliament as the Bill had been in the legislative process since 2003. Given the fact that some provinces did not have databases with regard to resources and that 475 000 children were in foster care, this lack of speed was of serious concern.

Ms M Makgale (ANC, North West) asked how many children were permitted at a foster care facility as she had noted on oversight visits that some foster care facilities revealed a desperate situation. In her mind, they operated as a business. She also asked how the Department would ensure that the crucial phase one training would be accessed by rural care givers and how it would secure status of children in prisons in light of the backlog issue. Further, she communicated her perception that NGOs were contributing to the problem of disparity by being situated in towns, when they were most needed in the rural areas.

Ms J Witbooi (Provincial Legislature) enquired if there was a language policy with the development of the Education Development Projects and with the development of the Act. 

Ms Marais (Provincial Legislature) asked if the competence of social workers was the stumbling block in the different provinces.

Mr M De Villiers (DA, Western Cape) asked if the Department could elaborate on the costing information for the Children’s Act.

The Chairperson reminded the Department about the newly established Department of Women and Children with which they would engage and debate. She asked the Department if the CCPF was a permanent structure and also asked her to touch on issues of child trafficking and international adoption regulations.

Dr Mabetoa said that a plan to address the backlog on resources required for provincial development was being finalised. Early Child Development (ECD) would provide norms and standards stipulating how the facility would operate in terms of safety and user friendliness for children. She highlighted the fact that early child development took place at the clinic, home and facility and the expansion programmes would address nutrition, equipment, stimulation, physical health, etc and would include norms and standards of the accredited programmes. New provinces in the legislature would also be accommodated.

Regulations had been developed in 1983 and were no longer in alignment with the amendments. Therefore the alignment was being dealt with and would also be dealt with when it came to minimum standards for children’s programmes. Alignment with the Correctional Services Act would also be dealt with. The introduction of norms and standards across the board would decrease disparity between provinces. The Department was also currently developing legislation for funding of NGOs which would decrease disparity between provinces. Provinces did have some data bases, but the new regulation required that the data bases needed to be updated.

Provinces were responsible for information on all persons adopting children and would authorise all local adoptions. The Department was currently developing a strategy to encourage South Africans to adopt locally.

Province was also responsible for overseeing training of all social workers, including at Community Based Organisations (CBOs) in the rural areas.

The CCPF would assist in monitoring the Children’s Act and would be representative as possible.

The Department had noted that different provinces had developed different organograms according to their needs and resources. At National level, there was a Chief Director with five Directors, but at Provincial level the structure varied. The Department would provide them with an organogram which they required.

According to South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), the number of non-related children permitted in a foster home was six, and siblings, even if there were ten children, would not be separated. The new legislation made provision for organisations to have ten cluster foster care homes, with a maximum of 60 children per home. This legislation would make it easier for the Department to register and monitor cluster foster care.

Dr Mabetoa conceded that NGOs were mostly in the urban areas and not where they were most needed in the rural areas. However, CBOs provided a variety of social services in rural areas. These CBOs needed to be registered for services provided in any form and they would be monitored according to the new legislation. This would also address disparity. The Department also aimed to train women to manage funds allocated to the CBOs by government.

The secure care of children in conflict with the law, or awaiting trial and/or with behavior problems was provided for in the Child Justice Act. The Department ensured secure services to these children but would need to ensure that optimal use of the provided facilities was utilised.

The Department always ensured that pamphlets were distributed in all eleven languages, as in the Child Act and that the DVD could make provisions for subtitles.

The stumbling blocks were as a result of under-funding of social welfare services. SASSA was now separate to the DSD but the budget for social grants was combined. With health funding historically being prioritised, welfare services would receive only the remainder of funding. This needed to be realigned according to the demands of child welfare and the new services provided.

DSD and the Department of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities were currently engaging on the role that this new Department would play in managing children’s rights according to the Children’s Act. 

In line with the Hague Convention 2007, the Department had provided for legislation on adoption services in the Children’s Act. Accredited organisations alone could approve an adoption.

Adv Loselo stated that the Department had not committed to a time frame as it was not known when the National Treasury would concur. However he believed that the regulations would be finalised by the end of the month. If the Department of Justice was not ready to implement the regulations it would affect the Act so it had been suggested that certain sections (Chapter 4) which had to be dealt with in court needed to be omitted from the proclamation of the Act and dealt with by the Department once the Act was in operation.

Mr Madonsela said that his colleagues had answered all the questions, but wished to add that it was important to encourage adoption of South African children by South Africans and to stem the tide of adoption of foreign children. This could be achieved by unpacking the African cultural practices and demystifying adoption of foreign children which stood in the way of adoption of local children. This needed to be taken care of by government and Parliament and asked for assistance from the Committee in popularising this campaign. The Children’s Act had provided for people who had the heart and ability to rear children. Therefore the state would now financially assist those who were not gainfully employed to adopt local children.

Dr Mabetoa said that Section 137 of the amendments recognised children over 16 years old to head a household. Supervising adults were appointed by the NGO and the Department. Where the eldest child was younger than 16 years old, they would need full care and protection by the state.

Mr Wiley asked if the adults appointed to a child-headed household would have the same rights as a foster parent.

Dr Mabetoa answered that the appointed adult was accountable to the NGO or Department and would work with the specific NGO or official in the Department to administer the grant on behalf of the children. The Children’s Act compelled close communication of the Department or NGO with the eldest child of the household as the household requirements varied between homes. A child with a disability, for example, would be over the age of 16 years old, yet would need additional care.

The Chairperson assured the Department that they would assist in popularising the local adoption campaign and requested further documentation in order to interact with other Committees on the issue.

Child Protection Programmes in the Western Cape

Ms Sharon Follentine (Director of Social Policy Formation, DSD, Western Cape) presented a broad list of Child Protection Programmes which existed in the Western Cape. The presentation excluded the Substance Abuse Programme, and services to children in conflict with the law, as this was dealt with in the Children’s Justice Act and Probation Services Act. The delivery of all programmes was performed on four levels of intervention: awareness & prevention, early intervention, statutory, aftercare and re-integration services.

Statutory social work services were provided by 132 Child Protection Organisations and 16 district offices in the Western Cape, and these organisations dealt with foster care, adoption and more recently commercial exploitation of children and child labour.

The Western Cape province had invested in training of social workers and NGOs so that more than 1000 social workers and child and youth care workers now understood the new Children’s Act and the implications for practice. There were 1001 ECD programmes and 70 after-care services which include services for children with disabilities.

A few years ago, the budget for ECD was R30 million and within a few years, had increased to 150 million. Ms Follentine stressed that ECD programmes had to be of very high quality to hold as a stepping stone to the next level of learning for the child. ECD practitioners were being trained to improve quality of the centre.

Based on the Gauteng model, the Bana Pele Child Poverty Programme was launched in the Cape Winelands last year and worked closely with the Department of Health, Labour, Education and Agriculture as well as with the local municipalities. So far 11000 families were profiled in the Cape Winelands area and data on birth registration, school, and nutrition was collected, enabling referral of people of the community to relevant community programmes.

She also explained that the motivation for NGOs was entrepreneurial spirit. The new Act stipulated that a certain level of skill and competency was required in order to start an NGO.  In the Western Cape province there were presently 35 registered children homes, eight shelters, ten drop-in centers, call centres, and 30 000 children in foster care. Resources were biased to the metro areas as it was not financially viable for organisations to set up businesses in the rural areas. The aim was to make it financially worthwhile for entrepreneurs to operate in the rural areas.

Early intervention programmes were part aimed at children aged 12-18 years as this age group was the most vulnerable. 350 safety parents were trained and available for emergency situations.

The budget for youth and child protection showed a steady increase from R295 million to R339 million in 2010, R386 million in 2011 and to R440 million in 2012.

The Chairperson said that the Committee needed to ensure that communities understood that children’s rights were protected by our society.

Ms Follentine agreed and stated that it was a priority of the Premier and MEC to address these issues at the Children’s Summit in October 2009. In the run up to the summit, government had focused on 40 child groups and on dialogue with parents so that relevant voices of the children and parents could be heard at the summit. In a country where 80% of child abuse was by a perpetrator known to the family, it was imperative that community and families partnered the government in solving problems within their communities.

Ms Mngube asked if a strategy had been considered for improving infrastructure and attending to the rural areas where abusive offences to children were not necessarily even recognised as child abuse.

Ms Follentine replied that the government did ensure that public awareness was taken to the rural areas and that they also covered for NGOs that were not happy to go to rural areas. One of the problems in child abuse was that the perpetrator was often the source of income. Further research was necessary to understand reasons for maltreatment of children. Anecdotal evidence showed that anger, revenge and power were motivating factors.

Ms Mngube asked if the 24 hour intervention programme included community involvement and if target areas had already identified.

Ms Follentine answered that a 24 hour service linked safety parents and social workers and that phone numbers of the safety parents were also made available to the local police so that they could be contacted when necessary. Counselors played an important role in identifying good safety parents, as well as door to door public awareness where literacy was low. Twenty seven areas, where the crime rate was extremely high, were identified as high priority areas. These areas also had a high poverty index.

Ms Mngube asked if the Department had conducted research as to what exactly caused abduction of children which led to killing.

Ms Follentine replied that all provinces had to submit annual reports on children in South Africa to the Office of the Presidency and that this research was available. In addition, the Department commissioned their own report and the Children’s Institute also made research available to the province. They were currently looking at community safety structures and the link between crime, substance abuse and violence and safety of women and children.

Mr De Villiers commented that ECDs played an important role in the addressing of problems in schools.There was a link between Department of Social Services on the ECD side, and the Department of Education through the foundation phase.

Ms Follentine agreed that indeed ECDs would go a long way to address the problems. There was a formal link between the DSD and Department of Education which had the responsibility of training and accrediting ECD practitioners as well as Grade R and crèche practitioners.

The Chairperson said that an aggressive programme was necessary to make an impact on child abuse in the provinces as the current programme was not yielding results that were expected. She asked Ms Follentine to elaborate on abduction, psychosocial support groups in the province and the link that the Bana Pele Child Poverty programme had with the Anti Poverty programme launched by the former Deputy President.

Ms Follentine said that where the perpetrator was known to the family, the problem was often collusion on the part of the family with the perpetrator, who was also the main source of income. The challenge was to change that mindset and teach the victim not to protect the perpetrator.

She concluded that there was a direct link between Bana Pele and the Anti Poverty programme. They both involved household profiling and questionnaires were subjected to rigorous review.

The Chairperson thanked the delegates for their presentations and responses and said that the Committee would continue to engage and do the expected oversight as parliament.

The meeting was adjourned.


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