“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.