Child neglect is a form of abuse, an act of caregivers that results in depriving a child of their basic needs, such as the failure to provide adequate supervision, health care, clothing, or housing, as well as other physical, emotional, social, educational, and safety needs.
Anyone that has access to a child is in a position to mistreat them and can be a potential abuser.
Child abuse and neglect are on the rise in South Africa. Children are the most vulnerable citizens in our society and they need every one of us to help protect them.
We have approximately 5 million orphans in South Africa.
”By 2015, some 5 700 000
children would have lost one or
both parents to AIDS. Some
3 100 000 children under 18 years
would be maternal orphans, and
4 700 000 would be paternal
orphans, according to the Medical
Research Council in 2002.”
First steps to healing the South African Family. March 2011. Lucy Holborn & Gail Eddy. South African Institute of Race Relations
Often children are hurt within families under the guise of discipline.
”If you have to use a belt to speak on your behalf, you have an extremely short vocabulary”
Finsch, The Black Chair, 2022
Symptoms that indicate child abuse are:
- Injuries or bruises that can’t be explained, a failure to thrive – growth is stunted or weight loss.
- Bedwetting for a child that has been potty trained.
- An STD, for example, HIV.
- Night terrors.
- Not performing or wanting to go to school.
- Suicidal, self-hurting, aggressive or withdrawn behaviour.
Are we compelled to report child abuse?
We are bound by specific laws to report the abuse or neglect of children, namely Section 28 of the Bill of Rights states, “every child has the right to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse and degradation”.
The Children’s Act No. 35 of 2005 explains the rights of minors under the age of 18 years, as well as how we are supposed to care for them. The law also states that it is mandatory for persons in certain professions to report possible child abuse and neglect. Anyone can choose to report a suspected abuse of a child – often times a child falls through the cracks if neighbours or family choose to turn a blind eye to abuse.
The Sexual Offences Act states that we have a legal obligation to report sexual abuse or exploitation of children as soon as we become aware of it.
Children may suffer any one or a combination of the following forms of abuse:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Neglect is the failure to provide for a child’s basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, love and affection or much-needed medical care when the parent or caregiver is able to do so.
- Exploitation is a form of abuse and includes trafficking, child labour and online abuse. Note that sex with a child of 16 years and younger are prohibited by law. It is rape or statutory rape and must be reported.
Signs of child neglect:
- Unsuitable clothing for the weather.
- Dirty or unbathed.
- Extreme hunger.
- Apparent lack of supervision.
- Insufficient safety precautions in the home.
- Unattended medical, dental or educational needs.
Note: According to the law you may not leave young children on their own or under the supervision of teens. It is child neglect.
How to prevent child neglect?
- Parents and family are recognised as the first duty-bearers to ensure the safety of a child at all times.
- Children should be taught the basic rules of safety and be supervised by responsible adults at all times.
- Report any child neglect that you become aware of immediately.
- As a parent – get help if you are neglecting or abusing your children n the way you care for them. It is possible to change our ways and stop generational violence patterns.
Where to report child abuse
- Department of Social Development toll-free number 0800 220 250
- Crime Stop number 08600 10111 or SAPS 10111
- Childline: 24-hour free helpline 0800 055 555
- Child Welfare South Africa: 074 080 8315
How do we ensure our children are best equipped for life?
Are we equipped for parenthood? Proper parenthood ensures our children are prepared for life, which entails far more than academic and financial preparation. Parenthood comes without a manual … the devastation of this shortcoming is tragically etched all over the current family landscape: Family killings, child abuse, gender-based violence, broken family homes, more than 50% divorce rate, and the ever-growing number of single-parent and child-reared households … will a manual make a difference?
The Black Chair became our way of dealing with many of these challenges and uncertainties while finding our way to a violence-free, harmonious, loving, and peaceful household. We love our children and need our presence, words, and actions to count. To equip them in becoming the pillars of future society. Will they fail at times? Most certainly yes! Will they always make good choices? Most certainly not! They are human and I am realistic.
Will the lessons learned and described in this book help you, your family, children, or friends as a group or individually? I certainly believe it would. Make a difference. Get yourself … The Black Chair.
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