Over the past 10 years a diverse set of problems have been documented about the widespread use of the foster care system to provide financial assistance to the country’s increasing number of orphans, the majority of whom are living with relatives. Children’s Institute socio-legal research and consultations with government and practitioners are aimed at finding clarity and proposing solutions that are in the best interests of all affected children.
The Means to Live Project investigates the targeting aspect of selected poverty alleviation programmes relevant to socio-economic rights, and the consequences of this targeting for children. The government programmes examined are the Child Support Grant, the Housing Subsidy Scheme, the Free Basic Water policy, the No-Fee and School Fee Exemption policies, free primary health care and the National School Nutrition Programme.
The predecessor of the Children's Institute, the Child Health Policy Institute, was involved in the development of a national school health policy since 1997. In 2000, the Child Health Services Programme was commissioned to develop a school health policy for the national Department of Health. The project was conducted through an extensive national participatory process.
This accredited five-day course provides cutting-edge education in child rights and child law for health and allied professionals – including up-to-date training on consent to medical treatment and the reporting of child abuse and neglect as outlined in the Children’s Act. It examines the relationship between children’s rights and child health, and aims to equip health and allied professionals with the necessary knowledge and skills to realise children’s rights in their daily practice.
The Children’s Institute since 2001 has contributed to research and advocacy on new policies on social security for children. Research to date has focused on elements of the social security system particularly pertaining to children living in poverty. The aim is to advocate for the improvement of the social security system in South Africa to ensure that the right to social assistance is realised for all children.
Getting research into policy and practice is a main objective of the Children's Institute. This project therefore over several years recorded the story of the Institute's involvement in policy and law-reform processes, together with analyses of the strengths and weaknesses of the advocacy methodology used in each process. The information gained from each evaluation or case study fed into new projects and communicated to national and international audiences through publications and occasional seminars.
This project, conducted in collaboration with the Centre for Actuarial Research at the University of Cape Town, drew on a combination of primary research and demographic projections, as well as a costing exercise, to consider the application of the foster care system to provide poverty alleviation for households caring for orphans.
This project explored the forms that the 'last resort' – residential care for children – is taking in the face of the AIDS pandemic in South Africa, and considered these forms in relation to South African policy and legislation. In particular, the project focused on residential care set-ups that have emerged out of, and in response to the needs of, community-based initiatives.
When the draft National Health Bill was released by the Executive for comment in 2002, it lacked any specific reference to children’s rights and children’s health care services. The Children’s Institute played a key role in promoting the prioritisation of children’s issues in this Bill.
The Children’s Bill Working Group, established by the Children's Institute in 2003, played a central role in promoting the participation of the children's sector in the making of a new Children's Act. Since the Act came into force in 2010, the focus has shifted to monitoring the implementation of the new law, particularly related to budget allocations and human resource capacity.
The Social Service Practitioners Advocacy Network (SSPAN) was established in November 2008 mainly to promote the participation of social service practitioners in the finalisation of a new Act governing the sector. The Children’s Institute housed the secretariat of SSPAN until May 2011, when the project was closed.