What can I do if I know of a child who is being abused?
What can I do if I know of a child who is being abused or neglected, or I see it happening?
We have many different laws to protect children. Despite this, the statistics of children being neglected and abused on a daily basis is heartbreaking and staggering. Sadly, statistics also show that children’s rights are often violated by individuals they know and are even their immediate family members. It is also common knowledge that mostly there is not a duty to report a crime, save for a few exceptions, in other words you can therefore witness a horrific crime, but there is generally no duty on you to report it.
So, is there a legal duty on you to report a crime when there is a child involved?
In the Children’s Act 38 of 2005 (“the Act”), section 110(1) and (2) of the Act deals with the reporting of abused or neglected child and child in need of care and protection and states that any correctional official, dentist, homeopath, immigration official, labour inspector, legal practitioner, medical practitioner, midwife, minister of religion, nurse, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, psychologist, religious leader, social service professional, social worker, speech therapist, teacher, traditional health practitioner, traditional leader or member of staff or volunteer worker at a partial care facility, drop-in centre or child and youth care centre who on reasonable grounds concludes that a child has been abused in a manner causing physical injury, sexually abused or deliberately neglected, MUST report that conclusion in the prescribed form to a designated child protection organisation, the provincial department of social development or a police official and any person who on reasonable grounds believes that a child is in need of care and protection MAY report that belief to the provincial department of social development, a designated child protection organisation or a police official.
If you therefore conclude on reasonable grounds that a child has been abused or neglected, you must report it if you are a specific designated person, and if you are just an ordinary citizen, you may report it.
How do you report it?
You complete a form 22 and submit it to a designated child protection organisation or official.
The Act places a duty on a police official to whom a report is made to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child and to notify the provincial department of social development or a designated child protection organisation of the report and any steps that have been taken with regard to the child within 24 hours.
The provincial department of social development or the designated child protection organisation has a further duty to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child, to make an initial assessment of the report, to investigate the report and if the report is substantiated by the investigation, to initiate proceedings in terms of the Act for the protection of the child.
In our view, we are the adults and we should do whatever we can to protect the children of our country. If we cannot prevent the abuse or neglect, we should report it, whether the act directs you to or not.
It is not a choice, it is our duty as human beings.
Author: Petra van Vuuren
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