A child’s developing brain is like a tiny flower. If the flower is stressed, the flower wilts. If the flower is nourished, the flower blooms.


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As a designated child protection organisation that works tirelessly on the frontline to protect South Africa’s children against all forms of abuse and exploitation, we are deeply concerned with the countrywide increase in incidents of violence and abuse against women and children.

As a country we need to ask ourselves where and how did we go wrong? With all the legislation, policies, guidelines, procedures and services in place research results show that one in three children are the victims of sexual violence and physical abuse before they reach the age of 18, and 16% of children report emotional abuse (Optimus Study, 2016) and 29% (18,524) of sexual offences reported to the police were children under the age of 18 years – this equates to 51 cases a day (Children’s Institute, 2017). Poverty and disadvantage play a central role in indicating increased risk for child victimisation and propensity for perpetration (Unicef, 2016). There is also a strong inter-generational effect that perpetuates the cycle of violence from parent to child (DSD & Unicef, 2014).

There is a growing recognition that chronic and complex trauma and exposure to multiple traumatic events are at the core of many behavioural and psychological disorders of children and adolescents (Hummer et al, 2008). The effects of child abuse go beyond physical injuries and visible scars and impact on a child’s cognitive, social, psychological and em0tional development, and if experienced in the early years can even affect brain development (Children’s Institute, 2017; Fallot & Harris, 2009; Perry, 2005). The failure of practitioners, systems and governments to appreciate the complexities of trauma means that many survivors of complex trauma do not find the care and support they need to reclaim their health and well-being (Kezelman & Henderson, 2011).

Trauma also affects staff members in child protection services programs. Stressors deeply affect staff – not only is “secondary” traumatization common but direct threats to physical and emotional safety are also frequent concerns (Fallot & Harris, 2009).

We urgently need to pool resources, coordinate efforts, evaluate our approaches and programs, and as a nation stand up against the horrific pandemic disease that is destroying our children’s and our country’s future – and costing more than R238 billion annually in human capital (Save the Children, 2017).

Action for change

We are excited to announce that in a combined effort for change the ACVV and the Children’s Institute of UCT will embark on pilot-studies on trauma-informed care and intervention in child protection services. This action flows from the ACVV’s participation in The Mandela Initiative & CI’s Action Dialogue to identify key priorities to reduce violence against children which took place from 22 – 23 May 2017 in Cape Town. In July we will start with our middle managers (social work supervisors) on this project and other initiatives to re-direct the ACVV’s child protection services and the supervision of our interventions. More news to follow!

During the ACVV’s 2017 Child Protection Week program we will again focus on a wide variety of awareness and prevention initiatives, as well as poverty alleviation programs in the communities we serve, such as:

  • The online PLEDGE to speak out on a national and international level;
  • Various child protection awareness activities by our 53 social work offices, 4 CYCC’s, 2 Drop-in Centres and 45 Early Childhood Development Programs across the Western, Eastern & Northern Cape provinces;
  • From 29 May the “Dress your Workplace in Green” where staff will drape themselves, their offices and streets in green – the colour of life for child protection
  • 2017 Child Protection Week Dialogue on 31 May. The ACVV’s National Manager Child Protection, Nicolette van der Walt, was invited by Adv. Albert Fritz, Minister of Social Development, Western Cape to participate in the Dialogue at the Center for the Book, Cape Town at 14h00.
  • One Day without Shoes on 1st June to collect shoes and socks for children in disadvantaged communities (in 2016 we collected more than 5 000 pairs of shoes) and we hope this year we’ll exceed that target, as well as:
  • Project Winter Hope from 1 – 20 June to make society aware of the need for food, blankets and anything that will warm the hearts and bodies this winter of those living in poverty. Donations can be dropped off at any ACVV office.

Take Action Now!

We can no longer stand by and watch our children being abused, exploited and murdered. It has to change. It’s your duty to change it, and mine, and ours together: “Your child is my child”.

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