Monday, 30 September 2019

Reporting child abuse is your responsibility

It is the responsibility of every member of society to report child abuse or suspected child abuse. So, what is regarded as child abuse?

Child Abuse has many forms, as described in the Children’s Act, Act 38 of 2005:

  • Abandonment: a child deserted by the parent, guardian or caregiver; or where a child has had no contact with the parent, caregiver or guardian for at least three months for no apparent reason;
  • Abuse refers to the ill-treatment or any form of harm including assaulting with any form of deliberate injury; sexually abusing a child; bullying by another child; labour practices exploiting the child or any behaviour that expose or subject a child to behaviour that may cause physical or emotional harm;
  • Neglect refers to failure in the exercise of parental responsibilities to provide for the child’s basic physical, intellectual, emotional or social needs; and
  • Sexual abuse refers to sexual molesting or  assaulting a child or allowing this to happen; encouraging, inducing or forcing a child to be used for the sexual gratification of another person; using a child in or deliberately exposing a child to sexual activities or pornography, or procuring or allowing a child to be procured for commercial sexual exploitation in any way participating or assisting in the commercial sexual exploitation of a child.
Abuse in the form of sexual abuse is often not visible, and unless the child tells someone this will go unnoticed.  This includes enticing a child to participate in sexual activities but also peeping, flashing, fondling or exposing the child to pornographic material and other acts of a sexual nature.

In an article by ML Hendriks in the Medical Journal of South Africa, it is stated that the mandatory reporting of abuse of children was placed under the international spotlight with the sentencing in the United Kingdom of the alcoholic mother of Hamzah Khan (aged 4) who died in 2009 from starvation, but whose body was only discovered in 2011.

In South Africa, the father of 2-year-old Theopollus Groepies was sentenced to 25 years in prison for throwing his son against a wall and killing him.  According to the article, these are not isolated incidences.  The author states that violence against children is a universal and all too prevalent phenomenon.

According to the South African Children’s Act no 38 of 2005 (as amended), a child is defined as a person under the age of 18. 

Who to report to:
Suspected cases of abuse can be reported to the Department of Social Development, the South African Police Services or an approved child protection organisation like Child Welfare Tshwane.  You can call our Risk Assessment Centre in Sunnyside on 012-3439392 or send an email to

What information is required:

You may remain anonymous when reporting suspected child neglect or abuse, but we do need the full details of the child. This includes name, address, parents name(s) and name of the alleged perpetrator.  There is a form (Form 22) available at child protection organisations that can be completed. The residential address of the child is required as it helps to determine which Organisation will be the one to investigate. The City has been divided into demarcated areas which are serviced by various child protection organisations including Child Welfare Tshwane, CMR, SAVF and Rata.

What happens after a case has been reported:

A social worker (and sometimes the SA Police) will interview the child as soon as possible.  The family and the alleged abuser will also be interviewed, and a decision will be taken on the child’s safety. Should it be deemed unsafe for the child to remain in the current place the child may be temporarily removed and placed in a place of safety, pending a thorough investigation. However, a Court must issue a Court Order for the child to be taken to alternative safe care.  This can be a child and youth care centre, foster care or place of safety.  The child’s age will often depend on the choice of care.

Child Welfare Tshwane works within the boundaries of the City, from Mamelodi and Eersterust, to Atteridgeville and Olievenhoutbosch. 

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