Relationship-based work has been transformed into a bureaucratic focus on Social work's roots lie in the socio-economic changes of the eighteenth .. however, fails to capture the fact that people's social problems can often be .. to school, being disruptive when there and often goes missing from home. Child protection services are included in the "basket of developmental social welfare Two sets of regulations in relation to the Children's Act 38 of have also The community has a right to indicate how it can protect the child by keeping costly services such as state alternative care in children's homes ( Proudlock. What do we mean by relationship-based practice? Relationships are central to social work practice but are shaped by the nature and purpose of the.
I had a good start myself with loving attentive parents, and I realised that my own strong foundation was the reason I could generally deal with life in all its seasons. The fear of missing something dogs you, day in and day out. It is the voice in your head at 3am Social work is all about relationships — and your skill in navigating these will make or break your career.
Even when you do go home and attempt to shut off, you know that the children on your caseload keep living their reality, however horrendous, and that it can all fall apart at any time.
The secret life of a social worker: you just have to get used to letting people down
High points tend to be when young people come out of their shell over time, eventually talking about what is going on in their lives; or the occasional epiphany when a parent realises what they can do to change. Drug-using parents are the cases I dread the most. Trying to help people in the grip of addiction while simultaneously assessing what the impact on their children may be is heartbreaking. The decision to take a child away from their parents is made between social workers, their managers, in some areas a panel, and then ultimately a judge.
It is simultaneously the worst decision you ever have to be a part of and one of the most rigorously considered. If a child needs to be removed in urgent circumstances, everything else stops until that child is safe.
Social workers, please learn from my experience in care Read more The fear of missing something dogs you, day in and day out. In addition, section 28 of the Bill of rights deals principally with children's rights Department of Social Development, This line of thought is reflected in section 7 of the Children's Act 38 ofwhich stipulates the best interest of the child as the standard. According to Wexlerfrom a developmental perspective, social workers inform clients of their right to information, participation and decision making, including the right to legal representation.
Van Niekerk stipulates that the child and the family have a right to know in what way statutory intervention will lead to the protection of a child. Universal access is one of the key principles of the developmental approach. According to the Department of Social Development This definition is now broad, comprehensive and sanctions designated social workers to provide services to non-South African children who happen to be in the Republic and are in need of care and protection.
The notion of child participation is echoed in a number of sections of the Children's Act 38 of According to Lombard Section 10 of the Children's Act 38 of stipulates that "Every child that is of such age, maturity and stage of development as to be able to participate in any matter The same principle also applies when extending a court order in terms of section extension of an alternative care placement order for a period not exceeding two years ; section extension of an alternative care placement order beyond the age of 18 and section extension of an alternative care placement order for a period exceeding two years.
According to section 3 of the Children's Act 38 of"Prevention and early intervention programmes must involve and promote the participation of families, parents, care-givers and children in identifying and seeking solutions to their problems.
This contributes to the strengths of the Children's Act 38 of It is in alignment with the principles of developmental social welfare as envisioned in the White Paper for Social Welfare. The main strength of the Children's Act 38 of stems from its unwavering commitment to prevention and early intervention services.
Programmes aimed at stopping abuse or neglect before it starts prevention and early intervention services have for the first time been clearly legislated for. They are also an investment in human capital, because they ensure that children develop to their full potential.
In the previous Act the focus was on statutory care rather than early intervention and the intention of the new legislation is to shift the emphasis to the latter while strengthening statutory processes. In recognising the severe shortage of social workers in South Africa Earle, This was to ensure that many of the tasks restricted to social workers can be done by other social service practitioners.
These tasks include assessing partial care centres and drop-in centres for registration, and monitoring longterm foster-care placements. Diversification of roles will help ensure that each category of worker is appropriately used according to their particular training and also will make services more accessible in poor and rural communities where social workers are scarce.
The fact that a range of social service practitioners is poorly developed and unrecognised leads to inevitable human resource challenges in implementing the Children's Act. Despite the abovementioned strengths, the Children's Act 38 of has numerous shortcomings. All these challenges stem from the shortcomings of the Children's Act 38 of with regards to pre-statutory, statutory and post-statutory processes and will be discussed below. The extension of placement orders both foster care and institutional care is provided for in Sections and of the Children's Act 38 of The responsibility for extending court orders, which were previously administratively decided on by the social workers acting under the authority of the Department of Social Development, has now been awarded to the presiding officers of the children's courts.
This has led to immense pressure on the already heavily burdened social workers. According to Loffellthe presiding officers require voluminous and unnecessary documents to be attached to the section extension of orders reports.
Social workers' communication with children and young people in practice | Iriss
It is now all about running all over the place with little pieces of paper and the valuable professional time of social workers has now been relegated to perform clerical duties Loffell, It is extremely difficult for social workers managing high case loads to have all documents and attachments to reports for extending orders ready for courts on due dates. It is therefore inevitable for orders to lapse. According to Du Toit as cited in News24,an estimated children's foster care orders had lapsed by the end of January without being extended and, in addition, a large number of such orders were due to expire each month.
Seeing this catastrophe and touched by the plight of large numbers of children who were consequently facing discontinuance of foster care grants, an urgent application was made to the high court by the Centre for Child Law at the University of Pretoria. In Centre for Child Law v Minister of Social Development and others 10 May, aClassen recognised the urgent need to provide a temporary solution for pre-Children's Act foster care orders requiring renewal "until such time as the Children's Act 38 of is amended to provide for a more comprehensive legal solution".
Classen also considered the problem of expired foster care orders. He instructed that those which have expired since 1 April should automatically be "deemed not to have expired and are hereby extended for a period of 2 two years from the date of this order" Centre for Child Law v Minister of Social Development and others, a.
With orders that expired even earlier, he directed that any foster care order that expired within two years before 1 April was automatically revived and extended in the same way as those expiring after 1 April In another order, Classen added that, where a social worker operating in terms of the old administrative process decided that a placement should not be extended "for the full two year period However, this temporary solution was meant only for lapsed foster-care orders and does not address the challenge of lapsed orders for children in child and youth care centres.
As mentioned earlier, the Children's Act 38 of is developmental in nature due to its emphasis on early intervention and other proactive services.
Nevertheless, dilemmas faced by social workers on whether or when to remove children is a practical reality. Misjudgement and prejudicial decisions on the matter are likely to be traumatic for children and their families.
Prior to removing a child, the Children's Act 38 of requires a preliminary hearing. Section of the Children's Act 38 of covers such removals with prior court approvals, whilst Section provides for emergencies where there are time constraints in getting a prior court authorisation.
These sections came under the spotlight in the High Court case of Chirindza and others v Gauteng Department of Social Development and others. This was after some social workers in the services of the Pretoria East Department of Social Development, escorted by the police, municipal officials and media personnel, used section to forcefully remove children from men and women who were using children to gain sympathy when begging on the streets Chirindza and others v Gauteng Department of Social Development and others, After neither being denied access to their children nor being told where they were, two of those adults, through the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria, subsequently challenged the process in the High Court Chirindza and others v Gauteng Department of Social Development and others, In his judgment Fabricius found the Children's Act 38 of to be deficient in failing to provide adequate post-removal procedures where children have been removed and placed in temporary safe care placements Chirindza and others v Gauteng Department of Social Development and others, It should have required that the Children's Act 38 of provided for an immediate review hearing by the children's court.
The purpose of such an appearance would be to determine whether the removal was in the child's best interests. It is because of this shortcoming that the High Court judge, Fabricius found and declared the Children's Act 38 of to be unconstitutional. He ordered that additional wording requiring reviews be inserted.
Unfortunately, the said judge did not provide guidelines on what social workers will need to prove at the reviews. Nor did he indicate factors to be considered by presiding officers at reviews.
Notwithstanding the provisions of the Children's Act 38 of on temporary safe care, problems of immense proportions have resulted from the wording of section 1 a.
This section is one of the grounds for finding that a child is in need of care and protection. Section 1 a of the Children's Act 38 of states that "A child is in need of care and protection if, the child has been abandoned or orphaned and is without any visible means of support".
From practice experience, this section has proved problematic when a social worker tries to open and finalise a children's court enquiry for a child in foster care whose order has lapsed. The same is true for an abandoned or orphaned child requiring foster care who has been staying with alternative parents on a private arrangement and now needs state assistance because of a small source of income that is sufficient only for themselves but not for an additional person the child concerned.
Such care givers are usually relatives receiving some form of state assistance for example, disability grant, older persons grant, and child support grant. Besides section 1 athere is usually no other ground for finding such children "in need of care and protection. Such children can only be eligible for a foster care grant if the children's court issues a court order placing them in foster care be it with a relative or a non-relative.
Lastly, the Children's Act 38 of does not address the plight of children who are in need of cash and not much in need of care. According to Loffella simple introduction of a "kinship care grant" can ameliorate this terrible predicament.
However, this review has not yet materialised. The present qualitative study was conducted within the context of the shortcomings of the Children's Act 38 of in order to explore the challenges that social workers face in the field of child protection. Data were gathered through three focus group discussions which each comprised of six social workers and was guided by a semi-structured interview schedule Neuman, Three meetings of 60 minutes each were initially scheduled with each focus group.
However, data became saturated during the second meetings, and hence the third meetings were cancelled. Data analysis was done in accordance with Creswell's thematic model. The study has been ethically cleared by the University of Pretoria and permission was granted by Johannesburg Child Welfare to approach social workers for the study. Participation was voluntary and social workers gave their informed consent to participate in the study. This included agreeing to confidentiality.
No data presented in the findings can be attached to any specific participant and hence anonymity was upheld. Data credibility and trustworthiness were enhanced through prolonged and repeated focus group sessions until data saturation occurred Creswell, Respondent validation was the most critical technique for establishing credibility.
This entailed interpreting the information and then checking with the participants if the interpretation and thematic analysis were consistent, correct and congruent with their experiences Greeff, The following section will discuss the challenges in implementing the Children's Act 38 ofusing themes and sub-themes which emerged from the research data.
Nine were male and nine were female. Twelve participants were between the ages of 25 to 30; three were between the ages of 31 to 35; two were between the ages of 36 to 40; one participant was above the age of Of the 18 participants, 17 were black and one was coloured.
Of the 18 participants, two had five years of social work experience in child protection services; seven had three years experience; four had four years of experience; one each had seven years, six years, one year and one and a half years of experience. Most of the participants had between one and three years of experience at Johannesburg Child Welfare. Of the 18 participants, seven had been implementing the Children's Act 38 of for three years; five had been implementing it for two years; two had been doing so for two and a half years; and four had been implementing the Children's Act for one to one and a half years.
Contextualisation of child protection within the Children's Act 38 of from a developmental perspective Participants' responses in contextualising child protection within the Children's Act 38 of from a developmental perspective varied significantly.
Some participants could not specifically define what a developmental approach to social work is. However, a few participants were very elaborate in their contextualisation of child protection within the Children's Act from a developmental perspective: So the developmental perspective stresses that children should be retained within their families, within the immediate family, within the extended family and if not possible, within their communities; it talks about doing preventative work, raising awareness within communities to protect children.
Institutional challenges in the implementation of the Children's Act 38 of The participants revealed that the institutional challenges in the implementation of the Children's Act stem from the problems that social workers encounter with presiding officers. These problems include the lack of uniformity in terms of handling Children's Court matters among presiding officers; the attitude of presiding officers; unrealistic expectations from presiding officers; varying expertise of presiding officers and the insufficient number of presiding officers.
Institutional challenges in implementing the Children's Act 38 of also stem from the attitude of social workers and from the fact that social workers have to work with untrained and uncooperative police officers. These obstacles will be discussed next as sub-themes. Lack of uniformity among presiding officers The majority of the participants stated that most presiding officers do not have a standardised way of doing things.
Even though there are regulations in place, the regulations are not very clear. Hence presiding officers are ambiguous, which is exacerbated by the Children's Act 38 of stating that the presiding officers must use their discretion in dealing with cases. This causes a huge challenge in that presiding officers in one magisterial court interpret the Act differently from those in another district.
However, it is not only the lack of uniformity in one magisterial court that is a concern. Participants also stated that they work with presiding officers in different magisterial districts who have completely different ways of handling and approaching matters. This therefore frustrates social workers in that they always have to be conscious of which court they are going to and what the specific procedures of that particular court entail. The challenges, views and experiences of participants on the lack of uniformity of presiding officers are reflected in the following comments: They stated that the Children's Court matters are often presided over by magistrates who are borrowed from other courts and then often rotated, resulting in some of them not being well versed in the provisions of the Children's Act 38 of The participants further stated that presiding officers read the Act during the court hearing sessions; at times they quickly run to a presiding officer next door to ask for clarity on how certain issues are handled and even ask the social worker on what they should do.
The challenges for social workers regarding presiding officers who are not well versed in the provisions of the Act are evident in the following comment: At times when the children are not doing well at school, the presiding officers order that they be placed in special schools.
However, there is a huge shortage of special schools. Moreover, it is also not the role of the presiding officer or the social workers to make such decisions; it is the role of the education authorities, since they are experts in the field.
A number of participants said that they are requested to order teachers around by the presiding officers who think that they know everything, "yet the presiding officers are not experts in the field of education. A significant number of participants stated that presiding officers demand that they social workers advertise for the biological parents to come forward. This is the case even for children who have been in alternative care for the past 16 years, who were abandoned as newly born babies and whose biological parents' identities and whereabouts have never been known, and who also do not even know the name of the child, since the child would have been given an assumed name and surname.
According to social workers, this is "ridiculous and an unnecessary waste of time and resources. Some are lesser human beings, or are second-class professionals, so to say.
What is more frustrating for them is that they are all ordered to be in court by 8 am, when they only get attended to perhaps at 12 pm, so they spend many hours doing nothing, waiting in a very long queue, which is counter-productive. At times, when a presiding officer who had ordered a monitoring report is not at work on that particular day, cases are just postponed because the other presiding officers do not want to touch the case because of their own heavy case loads.
The participants' frustrations are captured in the following words: One participant's view summarises this issue as follows: The participants further stated that the police have no clue as to what their responsibilities are as far as implementing the Children's Act is concerned.
Furthermore, police officers are not trained to work with children and as a result they intimidate the children. The participants' views on police officers are reported as follows: Some of the police don't even know what to do when they get to an abused child. You find that when children or parents go to the police to report child abuse, they are dismissed from the police station, they are told [to] go away. These infrastructural challenges will be next discussed.
Infrastructural challenges in the implementation of the Children's Act Several participants indicated that they are facing numerous infrastructural challenges in the implementation of the Children's Act.
These infrastructural challenges stem from the unavailability of resources, which is a result of poor funding of the child protection sector. The consequence of poor funding is that it places restrictions on the use of telephones, computers, fax machines and vehicles. These restrictions make social workers fail to adequately execute services as advocated for by the Children's Act 38 of The infrastructural challenges are evident in the following comments: So, that brings a lot of challenges as a collaborative process also becomes a longitudinal process, and along the way, some of the services are not effectively and comprehensively implemented.
Research done by September and Dinbabo Human resource challenges in the implementation of the Chil dren's Act A significant number of participants stated that they face a lot of human resource challenges in the implementation of the Children's Act. They explained these as stemming from the shortage of social workers, which inevitably leads to high case loads.
The consequence of the shortage of human resources is that it causes delays in responding to emergencies. On the other hand, some participants stated that they end up only responding to crises and neglecting prevention and early intervention services.