Summit highlights need for children to grow up in family homes
This was the message yesterday during the third and final day of a summit of One Child One Family: Hope and Homes for Children South Africa.
The event focused on children placed at care centres in Gauteng and was themed “Let us all protect children to move South Africa forward”.
Deputy Director-General in the department Onkemetse Kabasia said for children to grow up they needed proper family structures.
He said placing children in institutions for lengthy periods, rather than placing them in foster care, negatively affected them. Kabasia said they struggled to have relationships. He said institutions should be a last resort.
“If de-institutionalisation is not implemented correctly, it will have a negative impact on the well-being of children. We need to reduce the average length of stay over a period of time,” Kabasia said.
Hope and Homes for Children has been operating for the past 18 years and has, through its volunteer network, helped thousands of children in vulnerable households access health, education and welfare services. The summit was aimed at encouraging society to stop the dependence on placing them in institutions.
The head of department, Thembeni Mhlongo, said: “We need to join forces as different stakeholders to come up with a solution that will change people’s mindsets. We are significantly reliant on institutional care, which indicates that the child-protection system, despite the positive and advanced legislation, is highly institutionalised.”
Speakers also said there should be less reliance on institutions, and pointed out that some children over-stayed in orphanages from two to 10 years.
Shamien Rungunadan of Hopes and Homes said that when placing a child in emergency care, the caregivers should be trained and vetted. “A child’s placement must be community-based and in the child’s best interest.”
Hope and Homes for Children is an international organisation created by Mark and Caroline Cook and is at the forefront of a global movement to eliminate the institutional care of children.