Editorial

Make child protection really work

07 April 2019 - 00:00 By SUNDAY TIMES


Social workers visited the home of Baby Daniel a few months before he died at the hands of his stepfather who, in his own words, "f****d him up for good", according to the baby's mother. Last week, the high court in Johannesburg jailed Baby Daniel's killer for the rest of his life, while the three-year-old boy's mother will spend the next 20 years behind bars. This is just another example of the failure of SA's child-protection system.
Last year, in another case, the Durban high court heard how social workers were aware of Baby Jamie's home situation, a full two-and-a-half years before she succumbed to abuse at the hands of her mother and grandmother. The police told social workers the little girl had been sent to a place of safety - her grandmother's "safe" home, where in fact she was beaten, starved and tied to a bedpost.
In Carletonville, west of Johannesburg, the Gauteng social development department on Thursday shut down a crèche that had been operating illegally since 2016. A caregiver was filmed hitting a baby who had vomited, and another for not wanting to sleep.
In Eerste River, Cape Town, the body of a baby boy, believed to be that of Orderick Lucas, was found in a stormwater drain on Tuesday. A court had removed him from his drug-addict mother's care - but the Sunday before his death, he had been with his mom. She asked a friend to look after him and realised only on the Thursday he was missing.A child's first line of defence should be his or her mother and father, supported by family and community. But if these lines of defence fail, government systems should kick in to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Section 28 of the Bill of Rights says every child has the right to be protected from abuse, neglect, maltreatment and degradation. A functional child-protection system has adequate resources and proper referral processes to prevent and react to violence against children.Baby Daniel is dead. Baby Jamie is dead. Baby Orderick is dead. But Baby Daniel's two siblings, aged two and three, have their lives ahead of them. Now in a "place of safety" while their mom is in jail, their plight, and those of many other children, depends on a working child-protection system - and offers it another chance at redeeming itself.

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