ATC111116: Report Study Tour to United States of America on 25-28 July 2011

NCOP Women, Children and People with Disabilities

Report of the Select Committee on Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities on the Study Tour to the United States of America, dated 16 November 2011


The Select Committee on Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities, having undertaken a study tour to the United States of America on 25-28 July 2011, reports as follows:


1.       Introduction


1.1 Background


The Committee resolved at its strategic planning workshop held in April 2010 to conduct a study tour to the United States of America (USA); it was identified as the country with best practice in respect of policy and implementation to vulnerable groups, namely: women, children and persons with disabilities.


1.2 Objectives of the visit


The Select Committee focuses on five key areas relating to women, children and person’s with disabilities. These key areas are aligned to the priorities as outlined in the State of the Nation Address as well as the mandate of the Committee on Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities. Taking the State of the Nation Address and the strategic plan of the NCOP into consideration, the Committee resolved to focus on the following key areas: violence; survival and development; poverty & economic empowerment and education and skills development specifically as these relates to women, children and persons with disabilities. After assessing a number of countries the United States of America was chosen based on its comprehensive programmes and government departments that not only target vulnerable groups, but also displayed best practice models in terms of the aforementioned thematic areas.


The aim was to cover all key areas mentioned; these themes were identified as the focus areas of the work of the Committee in its five year strategic plan which guides work over the Committee’s five year term. Specific sites were identified within Colorado and New York City in relation to the work being done by government agencies in the USA for women, children and persons with disabilities.




1.2.1 Violence


The theme focuses specifically on abuse and neglect, gender based violence, child abuse images (pornography), trafficking & prostitution, shelters, care centres, access to appropriate social & health services and youth in conflict with the law.


The committee focussed specifically on issues and interventions related to domestic violence on this study tour and visited the Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence (OCDV). The OCDV formulates policies and programs, monitors the delivery of domestic violence services, and works with diverse communities to increase awareness of domestic violence. OCDV works closely with community leaders, health care providers and representatives from the criminal justice system to hold perpetrators accountable and to create solutions that are critical to preventing domestic violence. South Africa has not done well in terms of implementing its Domestic Violence Act; it was intended that OCDV can provide the Committee with insight into how they have managed to implement legislation successfully.


In line with the theme of violence with a specific focus on children, the Committee visited the Red Hook Court; this initiative provides practical legal training to young men and women for future roles as judges, jurors and attorneys by allowing them to participate in actual petty criminal cases.  It is believed that by involving the youth in actual criminal cases, they will become leaders in their communities and be conduits for positive change within their socio-economic environments.


1.2.2     Survival and development


Survival and development cuts across a broad range of issues  that deal with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), child survival, maternal health, HIV and AIDS, access to health care and social services, food security and basic services that include access to water, sanitation, housing, electricity, roads and transport. The Committee approached this theme by reviewing mechanisms within the following programs and departments located in bothColorado and New York:


·         The Administration for Children and Families (ACF), within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responsible for federal programs that promote the economic and social well-being of families, children, individuals, and communities.

·         The State of Colorado’s Children’s Caucus. membership is based on members’ interest in children related issues, the rights of children, and how parliament can play a role in the enhancement of children’s rights through legislative development process, the budget process, oversight and public hearings. The committee intends to learn about the functioning of this unique caucus and making a recommendation for its implementation in South Africa.   


1.2.3     Poverty and Economic Empowerment


A focus on poverty and economic empowerment allowed the committee to deal with issues relating to poverty, social security, poverty eradication strategies, unemployment strategies, SMME & access to finance and employment equity targets as well as a focus on rural development that includes communal land issues.


The Administration on Developmental Disabilities (ADD) is the U.S. Government organization responsible for implementation of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000, known as the DD Act. ADD, its staff and programs, are part of the Administration for Children and Families, of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Members visited the ADD Council as it focuses on persons with developmental disabilities as valuable participants in their communities. The Council promotes independence, productivity, integration, and inclusion for individuals with developmental disabilities. The focus of the Council is in the following areas:

o        Legislative and system advocacy

o        Encouraging systems change

o        Funding innovative projects


In terms of the State of the Nation Address and its focus on employment, the Committee visited the Women’s Bureau located in Washington’s Department of Labour.  Women in the workforce are vital to the nation’s economic security. The Women’s Bureau develops policies and standards and conducts inquiries to safeguard the interests of working women; to advocate for their equality and economic security for themselves and their families; and to promote quality work environments.




1.3        Envisaged impact of lessons learnt


In conducting its oversight work, the Committee met with the relevant government Departments responsible for addressing the issues of women, children and persons with disabilities with an emphasis on violence, survival and development, poverty,  education and skills development. The Select Committee observed how a developed country like the USA was balancing ‘best interest’ principles to ensure a better life for all vulnerable groups. It was the intention of Committee to develop sound recommendations in relation to its findings to improve the lives of the afore-mentioned vulnerable groups. This is particularly pertinent as it guides the oversight work of the Committee over the Department of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities.


1.4        Delegation


The multi-party delegation comprised the following:


Ms B.P. Mabe (Chairperson) (ANC); Ms AND Qikani (ANC); Mr GG Mokgoro (ANC), Ms NW Magadla (ANC), Mr TA Mashamaite (ANC) and Mr D Worth (DA) Mrs M Solomons (Committee Secretary); Ms T Matthews (Researcher)


2.         Observations


2.1        New York: 25-26 July 2011


2.1.1     New York Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence


a)      Introduction


The Office to Combat Domestic Violence (OCDV) in New York was established in November 2001, following a vote by residents of the city to create a permanent office that would comprehensively address issues of domestic violence. The OCDV is one of only a few government offices in the Unites States which focuses exclusively on issues of domestic violence. The office is headed by a Commissioner appointed by the mayor.


Key priorities of the Office to Combat Domestic Violence include:


  • Policy and programme formulation
  • Monitoring delivery of domestic violence service throughout New York city
  • Creating awareness of domestic violence


The OCDV achieves these priorities by working with community leaders, healthcare providers, city agencies and representatives from the criminal justice system.


South Africa passed the Domestic Violence Act, and even though the Act was passed there has been limited implementation of the Act which requires interdepartmental partnership and coordination as mandated by the Act. It became apparent during the Committee’s oversight work to various provinces and engagements with various departments that there was a very clear lack of understanding of the Act as well as limited multi-disciplinary coordination.


The OCDV was established in 2001 and came as an outcome of the amendment to the city charter to create an office to focus specifically on issues of domestic violence. High levels of homicide related to domestic violence and increasing levels of domestic violence necessitated the establishment of a central office that would be able to co-ordinate the service delivery of many agencies providing services to victims of domestic violence under one central umbrella agency strategically placed within the New York Mayor’s Office. The agencies include the Office of Disabilities within the New York Mayor’s Office, the New York Department of Health, Children’s Services, the New York Police Department (NYPD) and Social Services, amongst others.


In terms of New York City statistics, 12% of all homicides are attributed to domestic violence, which directly results in an average of 550 homicides per year. Domestic violence is a very big challenge to address and it is noted that although the city has statistics of domestic violence through the domestic incidents reports many cases go unreported. As a result the OCDV has embarked on an outreach programme that provides information and education on domestic violence issues. Prevailing community ideas are assessed through community assessments, profiles are conducted on community ideas around domestic violence issues and knowledge of intervention services being provided by the City of New York.


In terms of legislation the Mayor’s Office has achieved and implemented the following:

·         June 6, 2005, Local Law 61 – created a domestic violence fatality review committee.

·         December 22, 2003, Local Law 75 – requires that all employers provide reasonable accommodation to victims of domestic violence, sexual offenses and stalking.

·         December 19, 2002, Local Law 43 – ensures that domestic violence victims who apply for emergency shelter or related services are not denied those services based on the lack of documentation of the incidence of domestic violence.

·         December 19, 2002, Local Law 44 – extends restrictions for those convicted of domestic violence crimes to purchase or possess firearms.


The following are the key interventions in respect of OCDV:


b)      Domestic incidence reports and domestic violence prevention officers


Once a domestic incident has been reported to the NYPD, a domestic incident report has to be completed by the attending officer. Over 380 specially trained Domestic Violence Prevention Officers citywide are working in 76 NYPD precincts. Once the domestic incident report has been completed, a review of the report is done. Thereafter, follow up visits are conducted to the victim’s home. This has proven to be very effective. The domestic violence officers are trained to provide services and conduct house visits. Studies have shown that there is a high rate of reoccurrence of domestic violence. Furthermore, that the follow up visits are a preventative measure for the reoccurrence of domestic violence. Follow up visits by the NYPD have increased by 77% since 2002.





c)       Children’s Services


In households that have reported domestic violence there is a 30%-70% co-occurrence of child abuse. Clinical consultation teams and child workers work together on domestic violence task teams and make assessments of the children of homes affected by domestic violence.


d)      Mandatory arrests


In the event of physical abuse police officers are compelled by legislation to arrest the perpetrators. Studies have shown that victims of domestic violence are often too afraid to press charges for fear of reprisals. Legislated mandatory arrests, in the event of physical assault, provides the city with the power to intervene particularly if the victim is in danger of further violence.


e)      Housing


Housing is the number one challenge that victims of domestic violence face. The following are two categories of housing being offered to the victims of domestic violence:


  • Emergency housing


If the police officers suspect reoccurrence of domestic violence then the victim will be admitted to emergency shelter immediately. The location of this shelter is top secret and known only by the managers of the respective shelters. This is to protect the safety of victims of domestic violence and prevent intimidation.  Furthermore, shelter residents are instructed not to disclose the location of the shelter as this may jeopardise the safety of other residents at the shelter. For emergency housing, the priority clients are the intimidated witnesses and victims of domestic violence.


Priority is given to victims of domestic violence, and there are various regulations and documentation requirements that need to be met in order for admission to take place. These are as follows the copy of the police report and an order of protection (in the case of felony assault).


The challenge for emergency housing was that the shelters are not always able to meet the demand for emergency accommodation, and at times people do have to be turned away. Increasing the available beds to meet the demand requires funding, which is limited. Emergency housing is offered between six months to one year, thereafter victims are expected to find more permanent shelter.


  • Public housing


The city of New York offers subsidised public housing to low income families and those domestic violence victims that have passed through emergency shelter may qualify for this type of housing. Subsidised public housing is limited and to qualify persons need to meet various criteria determined by the city. As public housing is limited, the city of New York currently has a waiting list of approximately 10 000 people.


f)        Health services


The New York Health Department provides a critical service in terms of the identification of domestic violence victims. Medical professionals are trained to identify victims of domestic violence and this is done at hospitals and public health clinics throughout the City of New York. Every hospital in the city has a domestic violence co-ordinator, and if domestic violence has been suspected, the victim will be asked if they have been abused at home. Digital photographs are taken of the injuries and this assists in prosecution in domestic violence cases. An injury document file is opened and city health protocols for domestic violence are followed.


g)      Protection of the rights of foreign nationals regardless of status


In the city of New York approximately 42% of its population is foreign born. This inevitably has implications in respect of foreign nationals who are in the country illegally. Executive orders legislate that no city employee may ask the immigration status of clients; this ensures that lack of legal citizenship status does not become a barrier to service. This therefore entitles all foreign nationals to rights to basic health and social services and this becomes invaluable in the combating and prevention of domestic violence particularly in immigrant communities.



h)      Family justice centres


The Family Justice Centre Initiative aims to reduce barriers which victims of domestic violence may encounter. It provides an array of services under one roof allowing victims to meet with a prosecutor, speak with a counsellor and apply for housing and financial assistance all under one roof. Services are free and available to all victims regardless of sex, age, nationality, religion or sexual orientation. Services include advocacy, support, counselling and services for immigrant victims.


2.1.2     Red Hook Community Justice Centre


a)   Background


The Red Hook Community Justice Centre opened in 2000 in Brooklyn New York. This Centre was opened in response to the prevailing drug abuse, juvenile offences and violence in the area. The murder of a neighbourhood high school principal catapulted into action a call for an innovative response to the violence and drug abuse which had begun to overrun the area.


The response was for a different approach to justice for young juveniles. The resultant Red Hook Justice Centre is innovative in respect of problem solving, and restitution which is one of the key characteristics of the Red Hook Court. It was discovered that the justice system needed to do more than just adjudicate cases, intervention needed to occur in a way that was meaningful and fair.


b)   Services offered at the Red Hook Court


Instead of being a reactive Court, waiting for cases to come to court, the Community Justice Centre has taken a proactive approach to conflict resolution, social upliftment and crime prevention in the community. In order to achieve these aims, the Justice Centre offers an array of on-site services to the community. These include:


•   Free Child Care: these child care facilities are available to persons who have come into contact with the court or have accessed one of the many facilities available at the Justice Centre.


•   Mediation: As an alternative form of dispute resolution, the Red Hook Community Court attempts to resolve youth, family, housing and neighbourhood disputes through mediation.  These services are available to all the residents of the Red Hook community.  


•   Drug Treatment: The Justice Centre provides both short term and long term drug rehabilitation services to both youth and adults who are addicted to drugs. These counselling services are not only available to the addicts but to family members as well.


•   Domestic Violence Support: In order to deal with and prevent cases of domestic violence, the Justice Centre has collaborated with the Park Slope Safe Horizon domestic violence support group that assists in the procuring of domestic violence protection orders, to make referrals to community-based services and address other issues related to domestic violence.


·   Youth and Family Services: An on-site service provider provides counselling, crisis intervention, clinical/mental health assessments, and referrals to neighbourhood-based services for youth and families. 


•   Red Hook Youth Court: This initiative provides practical legal training to young men and women for future roles as Judges, Jurors and attorneys by allowing these youths to participate in actual petty criminal cases.  It is believed that by involving the youth in actual criminal cases, they will become leaders in their community and be conduits for positive change within their socio-economic environments.


•   Community Initiatives: The Community Justice Centre believes that the community is essential to the resolution of the social ills that affect it.  To this extent, the Justice Centre assists the residents of Red Hook in the development of creative and lasting solutions to community problems.  One of the essential elements of this initiative is the economic revitalization of the area. 


It is important to note that all the services are provided by service providers that are located on site. Whilst these service providers do not form part of the Justice Centre itself, they do provide their services in offices and spaces provided for in the Justice Centre. 


The collaborative approach of the Red Hook Community Justice Centre has achieved a host of impressive successes. Possibly the most important of these is a drop in the crime level of more than 62%.  Moreover, the level of trust in the justice system has more than doubled in the community with the levels of fear dropping from an alarming 77% to about 43% in 2004. In addition it was also noted that there was an increase in the compliance with court orders and sentences; that 78% of residents felt that the Community Justice Centre had provided a positive change in the community; as well as an increased awareness of HIV/AIDS and risky sexual behavior. 


Characteristics of the Centre are as follows:


Positive youth justice

·         Positive peer pressure

·         Drug rehabilitation and treatment

·         Youth courts

·         GED training

·         Juvenile justice programmes

·         Social services

·         Family mediation and counselling

·         Follow up with judge

·         Youth training courses

·         Summer internships

·         Arts programme

·         Youth advisory board

·         Participatory research programme


Visible restitution and reform

·         Community service in the area where crime committed

·         Written apology from the offender

·         Community parliament





2.1.3     Family Justice Centre, Bronx, New York


The Committee conducted a site visit to the Bronx Family Justice Centre. This is a free service which is one of the key public private initiatives of the New York City Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence (OCDV).


The New York City Family Justice Centre in the Bronx, opened in April 2010, is one of three family justice centres located in the three boroughs of New York City namely, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx. This initiative reduces barriers to service faced by domestic violence victims seeking help by providing easy access to comprehensive services and placing dedicated domestic violence prosecutors, essential community and City services under one roof. With both public and private support, this innovative centre assists victims with essential safety planning, case management, legal and housing assistance. As security is a major issue when it comes to providing services to victims of domestic violence, the Centre’s main aim is to provide a secure safe environment within which to conduct its services. The Centre therefore has a police officer dressed as a civilian permanently stationed at the Centre to ensure the safety and security of the clients of the Centre and to address any security issues should they arise.  It furthermore has two domestic violence officers, who fall under the jurisdiction of the New York Police Department stationed at the facility.


The Centre services on average approximately 1100 clients a month, of this total approximately 400 are new clients or visitors to the Centre. A major contributor for attracting new clients is outreach and advocacy, and the Family Violence Centre campaigns heavily to create awareness around their services to enable community accessibility.


This initiative is a public/private partnership, consisting of funding from the New York Mayor’s Fund, Advance New York City and private donor funding. It aims to provide a one-stop shop for victims of domestic violence, providing holistic support, education, training and legal services. This service is operated on a walk in basis, and given the diverse cultures, nationalities of the City of New York; the centre is equipped with interpreters, to assist any client that walks in.


Furthermore, the Centre is bound by Executive Order 41, which prevents any official of the City of New York to ask the immigration status of any client they are expected to provide services to. This ensures that immigration status, or lack thereof is not a condition for access to service delivery.


Onsite services are as follows:


Case Managers


Through partner organisations, the Centre has case managers assigned to clients to manage their specific case as well as making referrals to various support services, including referral to emergency housing and temporary housing. The case managers furthermore provide on-going case management and follow up with their clients to monitor recurrence of violence. The case managers furthermore collect demographic information which is fed into the fatality review report. This report assists the Centre and the City to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of programmes.


Health services

Domestic Violence victims are in need of a wide range of health services ranging from treatment of physical trauma to HIV and sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing. The health services available onsite allows for digital photographs to be taken for evidence of abuse which can be used for evidence for future prosecution.


Legal services


The onsite services available can assist with protection orders, divorce and custody cases, maintenance cases as well as assistance with immigration lawyers and paralegals. District Attorneys are also attached to the Centre to assist clients in respect of criminal justice procedures.


Counselling services


Through partner organisations the centre provides therapeutic counselling to domestic violence victims. These services provide the victims with emotional support to empower them to remove themselves from the abusive situation.




Training programmes


Partner organisations provide GED training, financial literacy as well as job training and placement to assist victims of domestic violence to become financially independent. These self sufficiency training programmes are available both at the facility and through referrals to partner organisations.


Children’s Services


The Centre provides counselling services for children from the age of four who have been affected by domestic violence; these services are provided by partner organisations which employs licensed professionals assigned to the cases. For children under the age of three, the Centre furthermore has a children’s play centre to look after the children whilst their mothers are undergoing counselling or accessing other services of the Centre.


Other services include safety planning, services for the elderly and/or disabled and voluntary interfaith spiritual support.


The challenges identified at the Centre include the following:

·         The services utilise the expertise of a whole range of agencies, ensuring that all these agencies work in sync with one another is a challenge as some services are not provided on site and are provided on the basis of referral. It is therefore imperative that the case managers handling the individual cases keep a case file of every case and conduct follow ups with the clients

·         It was discovered through outreach that knowledge of the services of the Family Justice Centre is limited therefore creating awareness presents a challenge.

·         The Centre is furthermore struggling to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of certain programmes, the self sufficiency programmes in particular. The Centre therefore is in the process of developing mechanisms to better monitor and evaluate programmes.





2.2        Washington: 27-28 July 2011


2.2.1     Meeting with the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labour, Washington



The Women’s Bureau was established in 1920; the mission of the bureau is to develop policies and standards and conduct inquiries to safeguard the interests of working women; to advocate for women’s equality and economic security for themselves and their families; and to promote quality work environments.


The Women’s Bureau, located within the US Department of Labour, is a national office with ten regional offices. The primary goal of the bureau is to empower all working women, improve their lives and secure better economic conditions for them.


According to Women in America: Indicators for Social and Economic Wellbeing, dated March 2011, statistics of Women in America are reflected as follows:


  • Women have made steady gains in respect of education over the past forty years; however, whilst women are earning the majority of degrees overall the wage gap of 75% still persists between women and men across all educational levels for full time employment.
  • Female headed families have the lowest family earnings across all family types.
  • Women and men continue to work in different occupations, and in respect of education, while women might broadly be earning more degrees they still earn fewer degrees in the fields of technology and science than men.
  • Women continue to be concentrated in a small number of traditionally female occupations. In 2009, nearly one fifth of women were employed in just five occupations: secretaries, registered nurses, elementary school teachers, registered nurses, cashiers and nursing aids.
  • While women are more likely than men to work in professional and related occupations, they are more highly represented in the lower paying jobs within this category.


The key priorities of the Women’s Bureau are therefore as follows:


  • Equal Pay
  • Workplace flexibility
  • Higher paying jobs for women
  • Women Veterans who are homeless


a)      Equal Pay


The Equal Pay Act of 1963 is a United States Federal Law amending the Fair Labour Standards Act aimed at abolishing wage disparity based on sex. This was signed into law almost fifty years ago. Whilst the wage gap between women and men has declined over the last fifty years, the wage disparity between women and men still persists. On average, women in America still earn 80c less per dollar earned by men, this gap increases when it relates to Latina and Black Women. This has been noted as a priority for the Women’s Bureau, who continue to do advocacy and conduct research in respect of narrowing the wage gap. Furthermore, the bureau, through studies is conducting research on non traditional jobs for women, in order to better connect women to these types of employment.


b)      Workplace flexibility


The United States has various legislative instruments to protect the employment of women, particularly in light of their responsibilities in the home. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 is one such instrument. It entitles eligible employees to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid, job protected leave in a twelve month period, for specified family and medical reasons. This Act applies to all public agencies and private sector employers who have employed fifty or more employees in twenty or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year. This legislation along with advocacy and monitoring of current legislation, thereby seeks to empower and protect all working women in America.  


The Women’s Bureau furthermore conducts the National Dialogue on workplace flexibility initiative which promotes workplace flexibility. Promoting work-life balance, including flexible work policing is one of the ways in which the Bureau seeks to improve working conditions and promote economic security for all working women. One of the key purposes of the National Dialogue is to:

  • Raise awareness and share information on the impact of workplace flexibility- sharing best practices.
  • Expand knowledge base and base of support on flexibility by reaching to include new partners/participants in this dialogue.
  • Stimulate dialogue among employers and business owners on making flexibility work.


c)   Higher paying jobs for women


As mentioned previously, one fifth of women in America continue to be employed in traditional work for women, furthermore, whilst women are more likely than men to work in professional occupations, they participate in the lower income categories of these professions. Government initiatives have included focussing on non traditional employment for women in fields such as science, technology, maths and engineering which are traditionally the higher paying professions.


Other government initiatives have also focussed on the “New Green Economy”, which is an emerging economy shaping employment opportunities. This seeks to focus on environmentally friendly technologies, and help produce solar and wind power.


Targeted efforts on the part of government are being made to ensure that women recognise the opportunity presented in green occupations, which enable the following:


  • Provide an opportunity to earn more.
  • Women can start with any skill level.
  • Green economy professions appeal to workers with a diversity of skills and interests.
  • There are multiple ways to get started in the green economy.


d)   Women veterans who are homeless


In light of recent wars, America has an ever increasing number of women military veterans returning from active duty. To date, there is currently 1, 8 million female veterans, who have found it increasingly difficult to re-enter the job market. Furthermore, many of these veterans are still suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, as a result of their military careers, making it increasingly difficult to readjust to civilian life. This presents a major challenge in securing and maintaining employment for female military veterans.


As a result, there is an alarming increase in the number of homeless female veterans. This issue is one of the priority areas of the Women’s Bureau, which hosted national listening sessions with homeless veterans and service providers. The aim of these sessions was to provide further insight into the factors which lead to homelessness amongst veterans, as well as providing consultative input into how to improve services and resources for them.


As such, the Women’s Bureau has commissioned the Trauma Informed Care for Women Veterans Experiencing Homelessness. This guide seeks to share the unique experiences and needs of women veterans whilst providing organisational self assessment tools to service providers on how to appropriately deal with them. This assists in cultivating an understanding for organisations on how to recognise how trauma from military experiences impacts on the reintegration process and provides best practice as to how to assist these veterans.


2.2.2     Meeting with Administration for Developmental Disabilities


The Administration for Developmental Disabilities (ADD) is the United States federal agency responsible for implementation and administration of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000, and the disability provisions of the Help America Vote Act.


The ADD is located within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is part of the Administration for Children and Families.

ADD’s mission is to improve and increase services to and assure that individuals with developmental disabilities have opportunities to make their own choices, contribute to society, have support to live independently, and are free of abuse, neglect, financial and sexual exploitation, and violations of their legal and human rights.

Developmental Disabilities, is defined by US law, as being used to describe lifelong disabilities attributable to mental and/or physical impairments, manifested prior to age 18. It is not synonymous with developmental delay which is often a consequence of a temporary illness or trauma during childhood. Developmental disabilities are usually classified as severe, profound, moderate or mild, as assessed by the individual's need for supports, which may be lifelong. Generally, persons in the mild category may be able to live independently and participate in lifelong employment. In terms of usage, the US employs a people first approach to persons with disabilities, acknowledging the person before their disability.

Since the Kennedy Administration in the 1960’s, the United States has long been leaders in advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities. This has resulted in numerous government programmes and initiatives aimed at improving the lives of persons with disabilities as well as integrating them into broader society. Eligibility for participation in various programmes is dependant on the nature of the disability, and different organisations are focussed on different types of disabilities.

The State Councils on Developmental Disabilities are legislated through the Developmental Disabilities and Bill of Rights Act of 2000. These State Councils are located in every state and promote and engage in advocacy, capacity building and systematic change activities. The Council members are volunteers who are appointed by Governors. It is legislated that at least 60% of the volunteers on the State Councils must be persons with developmental disabilities or have family members who have developmental disabilities. The purpose of the State Councils is to identify priority needs of persons with developmental disabilities in their area and to develop innovative and cost effective ways to address those needs in a manner that upholds the dignity and value of persons with disabilities. The State Councils work to promote the independence and productivity of people with developmental disabilities and promote systems change that will eliminate inequities in areas such as employment, access to healthcare and education.

Major areas for grants awarded by ADD include the following:


The traditional approach in respect of employment for persons with developmental disabilities was limited to sheltered employment. The ADD recognises the rights of persons with developmental disabilities to employment and acknowledges that they can play a meaningful role to the workforce of the United States.

National Initiatives:

Customised Employment Project Institute for Community Inclusion

The Institute for Community Inclusion is a national leader in practical and innovative solutions for individuals with developmental disabilities. The Institute links the individual to the resources they need for community based employment.

The Access to Integrated Employment: National Data Collection on Day and Employment Services for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities

This project extends 17 years of research describing employment services for individuals with developmental disabilities. The project will:

  • Assess the effectiveness of state Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities and Vocational Rehabilitation agencies in promoting full inclusion of individuals with developmental disabilities through employment and other community activities.
  • Assess the employment and economic status of individuals with developmental disabilities on a state and national basis.
  • Describe and promote effective state and local policy and practices that enhance access to integrated employment at both the systems and individual costumer levels.
  • Implement, an interactive website that provides fully accessible on-demand charts and tables illustrating service system investment in day and employment services and employment outcomes.
  • Demonstrate the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) Technology to illustrate patterns of investment in service system outcomes.
  • Provide on-line access to a catalogue of best practices in state and local policy and practice that promotes access to integrated employment including outcome data collection tools, funding structures, and employment policies and initiatives.
  • Provide online access to best practices in job support for individual job seekers, family members, and advocates using individual stories.




The broadly accepted model for persons with disabilities is to keep them in large institutions with other persons with similar disabilities. ADD is trying to promote the right of persons with disabilities to stay in their communities of origin. Some states in the United States still hold onto the institutionalisation model.

National initiatives:

The National Residential Information System Project: Ongoing Data Collection and Information Dissemination on Residential Services for Persons with Developmental Disabilities continues more than 20 years of analysis of annual state-by-state and national statistics on residential services for people with developmental disabilities (DD), including state and non-state institutional settings and community and home-based residential services. The Project will:

  • Utilize a large multi-state database on individuals with DD to examine the associations between personal characteristics, living arrangements, financing and support models, state systems and other factors on the achievement of inclusion, self-determination, satisfaction, and outcomes.
  • Conduct state policy and program surveys on key topics in residential and other community services.
  • Maintain clearinghouses of information and resources on consumer-controlled housing, the direct support workforce, and community living outcomes


ADD focuses on accessibility to transport for persons with developmental disabilities, particularly to rural areas. Currently accessible transport is focussed in urban areas but there has been a delay in rolling this out to more rural areas.


Educational opportunities for persons with developmental disabilities are restricted to the nature of the disability. In most cases these persons are relegated to special schools. Special schools are predominantly privately funded and broadly exclude a large proportion of the lower income families who cannot afford to place their children in private schools.

Furthermore, the United States has a very sophisticated public education system which does not adequately meet the demand for children with special educational needs.

National initiatives:

A discretionary grant is awarded to public service units of universities or public or not-for-profit entities associated with universities. The grant is used to support the operation and administration of a centre and additional funds are leveraged to implement the core activities of:

  • interdisciplinary training
  • community service (e.g., training, technical assistance, exemplary services)
  • research
  • Information dissemination.

These centres support activities that address various issues from prevention to early intervention to supported employment. They represent a broad range of disabilities. Additional grants may be awarded to UCEDDs to carry out national training and other initiatives. Current training initiatives are funded to support post-secondary education opportunities for people with developmental disabilities and to enhance self-determination skills. There are two grants to UCEDDs to focus on partnerships with minority serving institutions.

Other areas for grant emphasis also include the following:


  • quality assurance
  • education and early intervention
  • child care
  • health
  • recreation activities
  • Transportation







2.3        Denver 29 July 2011:


2.3.1     Meeting with the Office of Policy and Initiatives, Governor of Colorado



It was reported that Colorado is the 22nd most populous state in the USA. It is characterised by the fact it has enormous amounts of rural areas. The state is one of only two states in the entire USA where it has water flowing out but not into the state.

98 000 individuals in the state receive social services. The recession which has had a major impact on unemployment has resulted in an almost tripling need for food assistance. This has resulted in the need for food assistance outweighing the State’s capacity to deliver the food assistance.


Colorado has 30 Early Childhood Councils in the state that serve 55 counties. The Council provides the foundation necessary for agencies and service providers to work together to build an infrastructure to deliver support services to young children and their families across several different domains including parent education.



2.3.2     Meeting with Bal Swan Early Childhood Development Centre



The Bal Swan is a best practice early childhood development Centre for early intervention therapies and educational services for children from the ages of 0-6. One third of the students at Bal Swan are children with varying degrees of disabilities. The special needs children at the school include those with cerebral palsy, autism, mental retardation, motor and language delays, hearing impaired and children with mental and physical disabilities.


The third of the special needs children are fully integrated in classrooms with the rest of the school going children. This is an example of the innovative learning techniques employed by the institution, in that whilst classrooms are conducted in the collective, each individual student, regardless of whether or not that child has a disability, has their own individual curriculum that is specifically crafted for the individual student.


Bal Swan is a private school that receives funding both from its own revenue generated through school fees, but also through donations received from private individuals and companies. Its primary income is derived from its students’ fees.


The Bal Swan Centre has been cited as a best practice centre for educational excellence for its innovative approach to education and considered best practice in respect of its integration of children with developmental disabilities with other school going children.


The Centre also has a variety or partner organisations which refer learners with developmental and other disabilities who are referred to their centre, these partners include: BVSD, Imagine, and North Metro Community Centre Board. The rest of the students of the school are from the surrounding communities.


The slots are 361 toddler and preschool slots; it serves 172 children within the Centre’s nine month preschool programs and another 189 children in its yearlong programmes. 

In-school and at-home therapy services are also provided by the Centre for close to 70 children. With therapy children added to the total, Bal Swan serves 400 plus children a year.


The Centre further has a scholarship programme which accommodates up to two children from low income families every year.


3.         Conclusion


In reflections on its study tour to the USA, the Committee noted various key lessons learnt from this tour. It was discovered that unlimited funding is no substitute for highly efficient co-ordination of various agencies across many departments and disciplines, providing services to women, children and persons with disabilities. South Africa has world class legislation for the protection of women and children, however, lessons can be learnt from international examples in respect of the implementation and monitoring of existing legislation. Further, another key element to the effective delivery of services is that legislation is matched by appropriate funding. This has been a key weakness noted by the  Committee in its oversight over existing legislation relating to women, children, and persons with disabilities, and this is an important lesson learnt whilst the Committee conducted its study tour in the USA.


Proper training of police officers to adequately respond to the unique needs of the domestic violence victims and highly efficient coordination of services to those victims has been another key lesson learnt during this study tour. This key lesson is response to the existing weaknesses identified by the Committee in respect of the little training South African police officers have particularly in respect of their mandate in the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act.


4.         Recommendations


It is against the findings noted in the report that the Committee makes the following recommendations:


  • Members recommend that a mini project is conducted in one municipality to pilot programmes similar to those rolled out by the OCDV.
  • A pilot project similar to that of the Red Hook Community Justice Centre be rolled out in South Africa.
  • The implementation of a pilot training programme for domestic violence officers to be stationed in a community in South Africa that has a high prevalence of domestic violence.
  • The establishment of Provincial Councils for Developmental Disability.
  • The establishment of a national entity, which would fall under the Department of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities, to specifically monitor, advocate and protect the rights of persons with disabilities.


Report to be debated.


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