Protecting our young

Regina Linus-Cheah in the playroom at Badisa.

National Child Protection Week is from May 28 to June 4, but for Badisa in Wynberg, and other organisations like it, the struggle to shield children from abuse and other ills is relentless.

The non-profit social services organisation’s Wynberg branch handles child abuse and neglect cases in the southern suburbs, including the Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia and Steenberg farms.

More than half of Badisa’s cases (54%) deal with child abuse – including neglect, sexual molestation and juvenile substance abuse.

In 2016/2017 it dealt with
3 344 cases involving vulnerable children and families, with 1 097 new referrals of children at high risk, 203 children in foster care and 47 children’s court inquiries.

Some 19% of Badisa’s cases dealt with were marital problems, family violence and poor parenting; 21.4% financial need, prostitution, housing needs, unemployment; and 5.6% adult substance abuse.

Badisa community worker Regina Linus-Cheah is busy visiting schools with various projects on the cards this week, including the Poppie Project, which uses handmade rag dolls – each representing a real child helped by Badisa – to sound a rallying cry for help.

“We would like to recruit volunteers, safety parents and sponsors to be involved in the protection and care of abused and abandoned children,” Ms Linus-Cheah said.

Businesses or schools can also support the Poppie Project by buying a R10 Poppie sticker to support National Child Protection Week. Stickers are available at the Wynberg office.

Badisa’s cases aren’t always solved by removing a child from the home. Ms Linus-Cheah said each case was investigated and the risk to the child assessed.

Sometimes all that is needed is counselling or parental support and training, but, ultimately, it’s the child’s best interests that take priority.

“It’s not always that the child needs to be removed. It will be investigated and if the circumstances were not conducive for the child to live in then the child would be removed. For example, if there is dire neglect, physical abuse etc.”

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Ms Linus-Cheah is originally from the Northern Cape and came to Cape Town when she was seven. In the two years she has been with Badisa her biggest worry has been for her personal safety – removing a child from a home can be risky.

“I went to school here and worked at a factory as a machinist and got tired of that, then decided to do either nursing or teaching.”

She ended up doing psychiatric home-base care. “I wanted to explore, and from the home-base care I went to a children’s home for vulnerable girls.”

She went on to study social auxiliary work and the studies included community development and that’s how she came to be with Badisa.

“I am surprised to see when I go to play groups or presentations, that children already know the different types of abuse at such an early age.”

The theme for this year’s Child Protection Week is “Child Protection is Everyone’s Responsibility”.

Social Development MEC Albert Fritz said child murders and abuse scarred communities and left traumatised families in their wake.

“Child Protection Week calls on us all to continue the work of raising awareness about the safety, well-being and development of our children,” he said.

“The department continues to devote the largest share of its budget to rendering services to children and families – R694 million this year. Child protection cannot however be the role of the government alone.”

Child abuse or neglect can be reported to the police or the Department of Social Development toll free on 0800 220 250.