Child maltreatment prevention readiness assessment: South Africa
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Despite the attention to service-oriented policy, a number of challenges remain, including the high number of youngest children (0 to 4 years) who do not have access to early childhood development services. A study of ECD services in the Western Cape Province found that service integration for younger children was consistently poor while identification and referral of children with problems were seldom done at community level. Furthermore, ECD site management did not engage proactively with families of children who have problems and provide support or encourage attendance of ECD facilities (Dawes, Biersteker & Hendricks, 2009). Early childhood phase is critical in determining the development of a child but in poor resource contexts children's ability to realize their potential is undermined by risk factors in early life including low stimulation and poor nutrition (Walker et al, 2007). A study of children's court inquiries in the Western Cape province indicated the potential role of ECD-linked child care to reduction of child maltreatment of children aged 0 to 4 years who were affected by statutory removals (Makoae, Dawes, Loffell & Ward, 2008).
There is a high prevalence of youth who bear children in their adolescence. The adolescent fertility rate (births per 1000 women aged 15-19) is estimated at 58 births per year (World Data Bank, 2008). What makes child bearing among teenagers in South Africa a social concern is that it mostly occurs outside marriage; disrupts schooling, does not lead to marriage and contributes to the widespread situation of 'absent fathers' during a child's upbringing. Children born to young mothers grow up with fewer opportunities for development provided by families than with present fathers. Furthermore, maternal poverty, due to low educational attainment and consequent poor incomes, contributes to stressful parenting among young single mothers (Panday et al, 2009). Maternal education deficit has been associated with negative child welfare, education and health outcomes (Ardington et al, 2011). A study using the Cape Area Panel Study data, waves 1 to 4 of this longitudinal study of young people in Cape Town since 2002, found that teenage child bearing had poor health outcomes for children an intergenerational effect of poor health as indicated by children who were underweight, shorter than their age and stunted (Branson, Ardington & Murray, 2011). Despite the commitment by the democratic state through its institutions and partnerships with its national and international development partners to promote equal opportunities and the wellbeing of all children, childhood in South Africa continues to be affected by several threats and vulnerabilities, a number of which are directly and indirectly due to violence. For instance, children may be directly affected if caregivers use corporal punishment; they may be indirectly affected if their caregivers die in violent incidents.