Case Study: Placement in cases of special need

Article published in Probono.Org June 2016 Newsletter.

 

J, a girl of 7, was found abandoned on the 9th floor of the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg in December 2015. An initial assessment by the hospital staff showed that she could be autistic. The police were called to transfer her to a more suitable place of safety but for whatever reason could not effect this transfer and the young girl spent the night at the police station.

She was then admitted to the Rahima Moosa hospital and our offices were asked to assist with finding her a suitable placement.

Our involvement was necessary since no state department has accepted responsibility for her placement. Both the Department of Health and the Department of Social Development have been unwilling or unable to accommodate her. We are presently looking at bringing an application in the Children’s Court for a temporary care placement order for the little girl at a private facility with autistic expertise.

Despite our having extensive legislation aimed at protecting the rights of children, such as the Constitution, the Children’s Act of 2005 and the Child Justice Act of 2008, each of which create a strong legal framework in support of children’s rights, there are still substantive barriers to the real lived protection of children.

The barriers are not in the design of the laws, but the way in which these laws are managed, implemented and administered. When we see that departments responsible are failing people on a day to day basis, and that the officialdom is characterised by tardiness, lack of interest, ineffective management, poor skills, lack of capacity; and when we see the over-burdened courts and overall inefficiencies in the system, we believe we have an imperative to act and offer assistance.

So many of our clients have attempted to use the legal system to obtain relief, only to find that without legal representation they have been unable to exercise the rights they have in terms of the laws we have on our statute books.