In a bid to assist communities working to create safer environments for children and families, government has developed Guidelines for the Prevention of and Response to Child Exploitation.
The guidelines aim to set standards for practitioners, which uphold the best interests of children, according to international, regional and national legal frameworks.
The document is intended to assist social workers and social service professionals working with children by interpreting the Children’s Act (No. 38 of 2005) and the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act (No. 7 of 2013), and by guiding practice regarding the prevention of and response to child exploitation.
The department said that guidelines are formulated to ensure that all social workers and social service professionals adhere to internationally recognised standards and uphold the best interests of the child, according to national legislative responsibilities.
“The guidelines outline the responsibility of government and non-governmental organisations in ensuring that the care and protection of children are optimum and that services address and focus on the needs of children who are exploited,” the department said.
The document contains guidelines for prevention and early intervention, guidelines for reporting, guidelines for assessment, guidelines for the immediate care of the child, guidelines for investigation and guidelines for reintegration and reunification, amongst others.
It also has guidelines for non-South African unaccompanied and separated children.
“The reintegration services for children from other countries and South African children found in foreign countries are undertaken by the International Social Services (ISS) unit of the department. ISS will contact social services in the country of origin to establish whether circumstances of family are favourable to return the child or not,” the department explained.
As the country commemorates National Child Protection Week, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini said a multi-sector response involving all South African citizens within their different formations is essential in response to child exploitation.
“Let us strengthen our collective efforts. Government cannot eliminate child abuse, neglect and exploitation working alone,” Minister Dlamini said.
She said despite the best efforts of the South African Government and civil society to protect children from maltreatment, many children still remain vulnerable.
“Child trafficking is of particular concern to the government because when children are illegally moved between countries or within the country from one province to the other it is more often than not for exploitation,” Minister Dlamini said.
The department urged communities situated in regions, where South Africa shares borders with other countries, to be particularly vigilant of child trafficking.
The Children’s Act
The Children’s Act defines child exploitation as including all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, including debt bondage or forced marriage, sexual exploitation, servitude, and forced labour or services.
There are many factors that may assist members of the public, teachers and caregivers in identifying a child who is at risk or a victim of child exploitation. These include child labour, child trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography.
Evidence of abuse also includes not being in school or showing significant gaps in schooling, substance dependency, a child speaking a non-South African language, children spending unusually long hours at entertainment areas or hotels or children keeping inappropriate adult company with known or unknown persons.
When any of these signs are noticed, the matter must be immediately reported to the nearest police station or social worker for further investigation, the Minister said.
Children who suspect they might have been trafficked must, where possible, present themselves to the local police station in the country they are in and insist on being taken into temporary safe care and that the authority appoints a guardian for them.
It is also the child’s right to request that the authorities bring himher in contact with the nearest South African Embassy Desk or the Embassy of the country of origin of the child, the Minister said.
South Africa is observing National Child Protection Week from 31 May to 7 June 2015. Government has urged all South Africans to wear a Green Ribbon during Child Protection Week to show support for promotion of the rights, care and protection of the child.
Source : SAnews.gov.za