Child Protection Organisations in deep water

Child Protection Organisations in deep water

The future has never been darker – and this applies to the most vulnerable in our country: children, women, disabled persons and the elderly.

Last week, the news that thousands of these people will be left without professional social work services became known.

The Department of Social Development ( DSD) has published a worrying budget: which is directly contrary to quite a few laws.

So says Henda van der Merwe, director of CMR Gauteng-East, a Child and family care organization in Pretoria.

“We have been warning for years – decades – that NGOs’ task is getting bigger, but the available means are getting smaller.”

The recent announcement by the Department of Social Development, in which their new policy direction was announced, together with a significant reduction in funding, showed that the situation is more than worrying – it is blatantly unacceptable.

The biggest problem is the plan to merge the DSD with the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment.

This merger means that much-needed funds are taken away from children, people with disabilities, the elderly, the poor. There is a clear move away from social work services towards community development, which means that the vulnerable groups served by us are pushed aside – and will be left to their own devices when funds dry up completely.

“Where is the priority of people in our society who are at the lowest level, who, due to economic realities, cannot help themselves, and are therefore assigned to the multitude of NGOs that depend on funding to be able to do their work,” asks Van der Merwe.

The impact of these rebates (CMR Gauteng-East faces a 61% rebate) means that where in 2022 we could serve 28,676 people with care, we will now be able to assist less than 10,000.

As a Child Protection Organization, we want to emphasize that people will now have nowhere to go. Children who are molested, abused, neglected… who will stand up for them?

We have signed contracts with the Department until 2024, but they are announcing a rebate in 2023. What about the existing contracts? Is the government going to act so illegally?

The department should provide support, but what is happening now is a centralization of powers which is an outrage. They want to arrogate to themselves more and more powers, but in fact, deny their own mandate.

CMR Gauteng East closes its doors on Monday until further notice. No services will be provided. All services are referred to the Department of Social Development for handling.

CMR Gauteng East has 13 satellite offices across Pretoria and handles almost 30,000 cases annually. The organization is registered as a registered Child and Family Protection Organization, As well as an NPO 035-918 and also has PBO status with SARS.

Social work – Helping those in need

Social work – Helping those in need

“Social workers are actively bound to the principles of social justice, the inherent value and dignity of people and respect for human diversity,” explains Henda van der Merwe, director of CMR Gauteng-Oos, a Social Work NGO with statutory powers in the area of child protection.

”Our main focus is on child protection with the understanding that a child is, and should ideally always be, a member of a family unit. Therefore, the family is always part of taking care of a child. Our country’s laws state that biological parents are responsible for a child. Where there are no parents or the parents are unable to take this responsibility, members of the immediate family are asked to step up. In our time many grandmothers or other family members are fulfilling this role.

“Protecting children from harm while keeping families together is our first focus. However, our social workers also render many other services, assisting with practical help as may be necessary.

Says van der Merwe: “Our processes and indeed all our activities are transparent, and guided by the law. There are of course also in our daily practice, people who present us with hurdles. Some of our clients can be so offensive that in extreme cases we have had to search protection orders for our social workers.”

“The challenges we run into are parents who failed in their duty to their offspring, and suddenly want to impose their rights as parents.

“As a non-profit organisation, we are not the law. Our task is to make sure that the directives as set out by the court, are adhered to, in the cases we are called in to assist with. After careful assessment, involving many different professionals, such as psychologists, forensic services, and the like, we join hands with other agencies like the Department of Social Development and the SAPS.” 

CMR Gauteng-Oos originates from, and is still part of the larger Dutch Reformed Church welfare initiative and renders services to all families in need. It is celebrating its 40th birthday this year. Its sister organisation, CMR Gauteng North, also belongs to the DRC network. The two organisations were delineated along church synod lines while bearing similar names. They operate side by side in the larger Pretoria area.

“Society is an intricate network of people who interact in a structure that is underpinned by local laws, set in a particular cultural context. In our democratic society, we work with a rich cultural diversity and while it is indeed challenging, it makes our work all the more rewarding,” van der Merwe concludes.

CMR Gauteng-Oos currently operates from 13 satellite offices from Cullinan in the north to Midrand in the south of Pretoria.

Their social work services touched the lives of more than 27 000 people in its last financial year.

Naalde maak hom nie meer bang nie

Naalde maak hom nie meer bang nie

Die waarde van spelterapie vir kinders met hul eie unieke vrese, kan nie onderskat word nie.

Daar was ‘n klein seuntjie wat by sy ouers gewoon het, en ‘n ouer sussie gehad het. Hy het soos alle klein seuntjies, gespeel, en sy lewe geniet.

Ongelukkig moes hy elke derde maand hospitaal toe gaan – iets wat vir hom niks lekker was nie. Hy was anemies– en moes selfs bloedoortappings kry om sy rooibloedselle aan te vul.

Die sien van die naalde en medisyne was vir hom ‘n angswekkende ervaring, wat van een keer na die volgende keer nie makliker geword het nie. Hy het geskop en geskree en die behandeling moes onder dwang geskied.

Die dokter het naderhand aan die hand gedoen dat die seuntjie sal baat by spelterapie. Hy het op ‘n weeklikse basis by ‘n terapeut ingeskryf en aan die begin was dit niks meer nie as om hom te laat verstaan dat nie elke persoon wat hy sien, hom wil seermaak nie. ‘n Paar weke later kon daar van trauma terapie na kognitiewe terapie oorgegaan word.

Deel van die spelterapie was dat hy naderhand self kon speel hy gee inspuitings. Toe hy tandarts toe moes gaan, het die terapeut hom deeglik voorberei op die besoek, wat ten spyte van sy angstigheid, tog goed afgeloop het.

Die seun weet nou hy hoef nie bang te wees vir naalde nie. Hy het sy vrees vir mediese personeel, naalde en hospitale oorwin en kan dit nou goed hanteer.

Die waarde van spelterapie vir kinders met hul eie unieke vrese, kan nie onderskat word nie. Kontak ‘n professionele persoon, hetsy ‘n sielkundige of maatskaplike werker wat in spelterapie spesialiseer, vir verdere navrae.

Suffering trauma – a societal illness

Suffering trauma – a societal illness

As social workers, we come into contact with shocking human behaviour on a daily basis

Violence, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, denigration. The problem of humans behaving inappropriately towards one another, causing harm and trauma to others, has existed since the dawn of history.

In times gone by a shroud of silence was drawn over happenings in the home: in more affluent societies especially, since “bad stuff could not possibly happen in good homes”. Thus much damage was inflicted that remained unnoticed and unattended.

In 2021 there is probably only a small minority that has not been reached with the message that gender violence, sexual abuse and like behaviour is unacceptable and in fact, criminal.

But much harm is inflicted without physical violence. There is the ever-present possibility of sexual abuse in the home, covered by layers of secrecy and shame. Young children (mostly girls) have a slight to none chance of coming out with the truth and being believed by older people. If the truth were ever to be laid bare, the figures would probably be so shocking as to be near-unbelievable.

“As social workers, we come into contact with shocking human behaviour on a daily basis,” explains Henda van der Merwe, director of CMR Gauteng East. “We endeavour to reach our communities with programmes aimed at preparedness as well as early intervention and of course, being at the stope face we also have to get involved where statutory steps need to be taken in the interest of a child.

“Much can be achieved in preventing problems if people remain alert and aware of the impeding social factors around them: such as cyber bullying, emotional abuse or falling prey to porn addiction. Prevention is always better than having to address concomitant problems after they have become entrenched.

“Children that had to be removed from a home environment where they suffered severe trauma, have to be assisted with counselling to help them with healing and experiencing hope. Many of them show problem behaviours that could include anger, violence, self-harming and even attempted suicide – even in very young children.

“Our social workers support the child with long-term emotional healing and integration into society. The sad realities are not lessening, they are growing. This means we need more trained people able to help with the social ills of our time, as well as community members reporting after seeing or hearing these ills, ” van der Merwe concludes.