Shock of SA kids in limbo

The Rep - - EDITORIAL -

TO­DAY’S Rep tells the story of two tod­dlers who were re­moved from a shack in Mlungisi in which they had al­legedly been locked up for ex­tended pe­ri­ods while their par­ents were out.

Both par­ents have since been ar­rested and charged with child neg­li­gence. If it had not been for the vig­i­lance and care shown by a taxi driver, who alerted the po­lice to the chil­dren’s plight, the sit­u­a­tion may have con­tin­ued, putting these young chil­dren’s lives at risk. Any­thing could have hap­pened in those hours in which these chil­dren were alone, chang­ing both their lives and that of their par­ents, ir­re­vo­ca­bly.

The chil­dren are cur­rently in a place of safety and while the wheels of jus­tice turn, it is un­known what the fu­ture holds for them.

The re­al­ity is that, if they go into fos­ter care, even as a tem­po­rary mea­sure, it re­mains a tricky sit­u­a­tion. Re­cent in­di­ca­tions were that up to 700 chil­dren were be­ing ac­com­mo­dated in fos­ter care in the Chris Hani district. It is a huge num­ber and brings home the shock­ing truth of just how many chil­dren are truly in limbo in South Africa. While some fos­ter care sys­tems work and give chil­dren a bet­ter chance in life, oth­ers are less de­sir­able and may not of­fer the ideal home to al­ready trau­ma­tised chil­dren.

In Septem­ber 2017, IOL re­ported “Fos­ter care process a night­mare” that the Aids/HIV epi­demic had re­sulted in the num­ber of ma­ter­nal or­phans ex­plod­ing to more than a mil­lion since 2004.

A lack of so­cial work­ers was iden­ti­fied as a huge prob­lem while the pro­cesses fol­lowed of­ten dis­cour­aged po­ten­tial fos­ter par­ents.

Pos­si­bly, the par­ents of the two Mlungisi tod­dlers will be able to get par­ent­ing help and other aid so that their chil­dren can re­turn home to a safe en­vi­ron­ment in which the nec­es­sary care will be pro­vided, in­stead of go­ing into fos­ter care. It is not an op­tion which is open to all chil­dren, how­ever, and such a case as this should prompt in­creased ef­forts to im­prove our fos­ter sys­tem – in­clud­ing more ex­ten­sive sup­port for fos­ter par­ents and homes – in South Africa.

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