“Children often pay the highest price when many negative attributes are prevalent in families, communities and nations. As such, we are morally obligated to ensure the eradication of attributes, which create environments that are risk factors for our children…” Koketso Moeti
Without a doubt, there is no single cause that can be named for child neglect/abuse. We also cannot deny that child neglect/abuse occurs across socio-economic, religious, cultural, racial, and ethnic groups. Despite this, there is no doubt that certain factors within families, communities and nations put children at a higher risk of being neglected and/or abused. However, it should be noted that this does not mean that the presence of these factors will always result in child abuse and neglect. The factors that may contribute to neglect or abuse in one family may not result in child abuse and neglect in another family.
These factors include:
- Substance Abuse, as it can interfere with a parent’s mental functioning, judgment, inhibitions, and protective capacity. Parents significantly affected by the use of drugs and alcohol may neglect the needs of their children, spend money on drugs instead of household expenses, or get involved in criminal activities that jeopardise their children’s health or safety. Also, studies suggest that substance abuse can influence parental discipline choices and child-rearing styles;
- Lack of knowledge about normal child development, which can result in unrealistic expectations;
- Domestic Violence, as children in violent homes may witness parental violence; may be victims of physical abuse themselves and may be neglected by parents who are focused on their partners or unresponsive to their children due to their own fears and
- Poverty and unemployment, which when interacting with other risk factors such as depression, substance abuse, and social isolation—can increase the likelihood of both child neglect and child abuse.
With all these factors being rife in the Rooigrond Informal Settlement area and with cases of neglect and abuse being on the rise, we realised that intervention was necessary.
On the 22nd March 2011, the day after Human Rights Day, we hosted a ‘Child Protection’ themed Human Rights Day information sharing centre in the Rooigrond Informal Settlement area. Stakeholders involved in the protection of children, were invited to provide the community with information about child abuse and neglect, as well as their various roles in eradicating it; assisting with it and where they are based. The information sharing session also allowed the community to learn how to access services provided by the state at no cost, with the aim of protecting children. Stakeholders who assist in the eradication of some risk factors for children were also invited to participate in the event.
The session which was attended by, The Office of the Family Advocate; the Child Protection Unit; the Commission for Gender Equality, as well as the Independent Complaints Directorate. It was the first time ever in the Rooigrond Informal Settlement, that so many stakeholders got together in a united, concerted effort to secure the protection of children. The community came out in numbers, eager to be a part of the process of empowerment.
Through empowerment and access to information, we ensured to bring the rights, safety and protection of our children to the fore. With children being our greatest resource, we will continue to build partnerships that ensure they are protected.