|dc.description.abstract||Child abuse remains a major problem within communities, despite all efforts to date
to try to intervene with children and families. There have been countless policies
drawn up which aim to protect children’s rights and prevent child abuse including the
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, African Charter, South African
Constitution, and the Children’s Act 38 of 2005. Some cases of severe abuse result
in children being statutorily removed from their families in order to protect them from
further abuse. Internationally, there are policies in place which guide professionals in
how to go about this emergency removal and safety placement of children at risk.
However, within a South African context, this model for practice within emergency
child protection situations appears to be greatly lacking.
Without a model to guide social workers in these already difficult and challenging
situations, this leaves professionals separating children from their families without
the proper frameworks for practice. The removal of children from their families is
often traumatic and devastating for the children, family, and even social work
professionals involved; and this situation is further aggravated by the fact that
professionals are not working from a standardised, evidence-informed, ethically
based, and theoretically founded practice model.
This study aimed to address this gap identified in literature and observed in practice
by means of developing a model for planning interventions for the emergency
removal and safety placement of children at risk. Although emergency child
protection takes place immediately, it is important for professionals to be working
from a structured intervention practice model which sets out the necessary strategic
interventions which need to be followed, to ensure effective services are rendered to
children and families.
The study utilised the design and development model of intervention research,
consisting of six phases. The first phase involved interviews and focus groups with
designated and residential social workers and child and youth care workers, to
explore and describe the current intervention strategies used for the emergency
removal and safety placement of children at risk. The findings showed that there are
many challenges in the field of social work which are contributing to the poor
services received by children and families, which included: lack of supervision, no
multi-disciplinary team approach to services, limited infrastructure and a lack of
resources, staff shortages and high caseloads. These challenges obstruct child
protection services, leading to an approach to child protection which is very rushed,
chaotic, paperwork focused, and is deficient of an emotionally caring response
towards children and families involved. Results from the first phase of this study
showed that there was no practice model to guide social workers in how to remove
children and place them in safety. As there is no practice model, and a gross lack of
supervision, participants from this study indicated that child protection practice is
instead guided by their gut instincts and cultural values.
The second phase of this study consisted of interviews and discussion groups with
participants who provided information on various social work theories and how the
best interest of the child standard should be incorporated into a model for planning
child protection interventions. Significantly, the findings showed that the best interest
of the child standard is not applied as a whole principle throughout the child
protection process, but rather in a fragmented way whereby bits and pieces of the
standard are used to justify specific actions. The findings from phase two highlighted
the need for an integrated and holistic approach to incorporating the best interest of
the child standard and social work theories throughout the child protection process.
For phase three, the researcher developed an observational system (after the model
was developed) as a means by which to observe and assess the implementation of
the model to provide further insights into its effectiveness.
In phases four and five, the knowledge, skills, and experience of designated social
workers, residential social workers and child and youth care workers were used to
inform the development of the model. The participants provided information on
intervention strategies, procedures involved with the emergency removal and safety
placement, and integrated the best interests of the child standard and social work
theories into the development of a model for planning interventions for the
emergency removal and safety placement of children at risk.
Based on all the data collected from the above-mentioned phases, as well as an indepth
literature study, phase five of this study involved the development of a model
for the emergency removal and safety placement of children. The model was
discussed with and evaluated by social workers in the field of children protection as
well as a legal expert from the children’s court. Feedback obtained from the
evaluations was used to adapt and finalise the model.
Phase six consisted of the writing up of the research findings within three journal
articles that will be submitted for publication in various academic journals.
The results of this study have addressed the gap identified in literature and practice by means of developing a model for planning interventions for the emergency
removal and safety placement of children at risk.||en_US