More than 1 700 Gauteng children moved to place of safety

Hendrika Kruger MPL

Spokesperson on Social Development

More than 1 700 children have been moved to temporary safety in terms of the Children’s Act in Gauteng in the past three financial years. The bulk of these are done with a court order in terms of s151 of the Act, while a growing number are done without one in terms of s152.

Thirteen social workers in the province have also been charged with unprofessional and improper conduct for failing to comply with the requirements for removal of a child in terms of the Act.

The information comes in the wake of questions I submitted to Social Development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza following the removal of a child from a Johannesburg lesbian couple earlier this year without following proper process.

The MEC’s reply also indicates a steady increase in the number of children moved to temporary safety in the province, pointing to growing concerns about the state of families in Gauteng and the use, and even abuse, of the Act to move children from care.

A detailed breakdown of the numbers is provided below for children moved with a court order in terms of s151 of the Children’s Act:

Institution

Year

2010/11 2011/12 2012/13
Gugulethu 87 110 98
Walter Sisulu 99 71 121
Garankuwa 48 49 49
Desmond Tutu 5 36 47
Don Matera 75 81 76
Mary Moodley 26 29 41
Father Smangaliso 0 3 1
Total 340 379 433

 

The figures for children removed without a court order (in terms of s152) is as follows:

Institution

Year

2010/11 2011/12 2012/13
Gugulethu 0 0 0
Walter Sisulu 2 5 13
Garankuwa 3 1 1
Desmond Tutu 37 36 26
Don Matera 0 0 0
Mary Moodley 65 64 58
Father Smangaliso 68 92 118
Total  175  198  216

It constitutes unprofessional or improper conduct if a social worker misuses his or her power to remove a child to temporary safe care without a court order. If a police official misuses his powers to remove a child without a court order it constitutes grounds for disciplinary proceedings against that official.

I will submit follow up questions to both the Social Development and Community Safety MECs regarding the outcome of charges for failing to comply with the law in moving children from care.

Social workers and police officials must use utmost care and require impeccable judgment to when initiating the process to remove a child from care without a court order. Such instances must be properly investigated and due process, including complying with the Act and filling out the necessary forms, must be followed.

The Constitution and the Children’s Act seek to give effect to children’s rights to care and protection from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation. It should not be used to arbitrarily and improperly remove children from their caregivers at the whim of officials.