BuaNews (Tshwane)

27 June 2005

South Africa: Child Welfare SA Applauds New Children's Bill

Child Welfare South Africa (CWSA) has welcomed the passing of the Children's Bill by the National Assembly.

The National Assembly passed the Bill into law last week after a long consultative process to establish a more effective child protection system in the country.

"Extensive input was rendered by the NGO sector and especially Child Welfare South Africa towards this progressive piece of legislation," said the body's national executive director André Kalis.

The new groundbreaking provisions in the Children's Bill call for the establishment of a National Child Protection Register.

This register would enable organisations working with children to check that all employees, regardless of whether they work directly or indirectly with children, are suitable to work with children.

It will bar anyone who has been found guilty of an offence against children from working in an environment that has child protection as its aim.

The law also broadens the scope of care options for children who appear before the Children's Court.

The more traditional placement options, such as foster care and residential care, have been enhanced by the introduction of shared care and court-ordered kinship care.

These options go a long way towards preserving families and aiding families to retain their responsibilities towards children.

The inclusion of these options is also "positive" in that it will make financial resources available to service delivery organisations to facilitate less traditional forms of care for children.

The legislation also calls for the improvement of the care of children living within child-headed households, allowing for a child to remain with his/her siblings but under the supervision of an adult person designated by the court.

Mr Kalis said this was a victory as the CWSA had lobbied for the care and protection of this vulnerable group of children and "we have been heard".

He said it reinforced the belief of CWSA that children should not be burdened with adult responsibilities.

It also addresses the lack of social work resources in the facilitating of foster care of children.

The HIV and AIDS pandemic has resulted in thousands of orphaned and vulnerable children needing alternative family care.

The new provisions would enable social service delivery organisations to effect foster care with children's extended families without the added burden of reporting to the Children's Court every two years.

The period of reporting has been amended to allow for longer periods thus freeing social workers to focus on children at risk.

The law also expands the child protection net to protect street children, children involved in child labour, trafficked children, refugee children and children in child-headed households by enforcing social work intervention and social work investigations into the circumstances of these children.

It provides for adoption of many more children by families with fewer financial means.

Prospective adoptive parents who qualify would be assisted with an adoption grant.

The law also establishes a Register of Adoptable Children and Prospective Adoptive Parents.

"This is a first for our country and will aid social workers in matching children and adoptive parents throughout South Africa, opening the scope of placement options and effecting permanency in the lives of all vulnerable children," said Mr Kalis.

It also puts into operation the stipulations of the Hague Convention on inter-country adoption that will regulate international adoption by forcing South Africa to adhere to international standards and requirements.

"We applaud the Minister of Social Development, Dr Zola Skweyiya, on the introduction of these much-needed measures in the field of child protection and thank Parliament for passing this new legislation," said Kalis.

However, Child Welfare South Africa remained "extremely" concerned that the existing lack of human and financial resources within the social service delivery system will hamper the implementation of the Children's BiIl at ground level.

We urge Government to attend to the financing of NGOs and social work subsidies with the same urgency that they afforded the development of this Bill," Kalis concluded.

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