Maltreatment prevention and the ethic of care
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Child maltreatment in the form of abuse and neglect is a common problem affecting the well-being and flourishing of children in South Africa. The problem continues despite the democratic laws, institutions and programmes couched in the human rights ideals
following independence in 1994. There is a dearth of reliable data on the exact magnitude of child abuse and neglect in the country, but policy makers, practitioners and ordinary citizens concur that it is a ubiquitous problem affecting all population groups and social classes. Given the negative long-term consequences of child abuse, initiatives that prevent child maltreatment from occurring are being promoted to augment reactive responses that are usually available to selected populations. This chapter argues that the ethic of care is worth considering as a way to improve the well-being of children and families. The ethic of care provides one of the missing ingredients in the current policy environment of South Africa strengthening caring relationships between adults in general, and between parents and their children, in particular. Prevention programmes that focus on enhancing
caregiver-child relationships are among those that have shown positive outcomes and are worth implementing in South Africa.