An investigation into services offered for children at street shelters in the Durban and surrounding areas.
The study was motivated by a dearth in qualitative research on shelters. Moreover, the complex nature of the phenomenon of street shelters appeared to present challenges for researchers, policy makers as well as service providers in arriving at a shared understanding of the causes and symptoms and possible responses to addressing the needs of street children. This study focused on shelter services to street children. Three Shelters registered with the Department of Social Development participated in the study. The researcher used semi-structured interviews as a primary source of information in conjunction with other relevant available sources of material to gather information from service providers. The investigation was undertaken over two cycles. The initial investigation was carried out prior the passing of the Children’s Act No 38 of 2007 and the follow up investigation was conducted three years into implementation. The aim of the study was to explore the nature and extent of programmes offered to street children prior and post implementation of the Children’s Act. The investigations revealed that although shelters initially gained legal recognition through the registration process, they were not recognized in the same light as other child care and protection services and were discriminated against, directly as a result of exclusion from relevant policy. The passing of the Children’s Act No. 38 of 2005 signalled hope for shelter services. It set in motion a paradigm shift in the manner in which shelters operate and function and signals partnerships and co-operation between the state and non-government sector. However, the findings revealed that three years into implementation, the Children’s Act No 38 of 2007 has not yielded much progress in shelter services. This research draws attention to the prevailing gaps in services as well as the purposeful implementation of policy towards meaningful interventions to street children. It is hoped that the findings will influence purposeful engagements between the Shelters and the Department of Social Development in addressing identified gaps.