An explorative study of the child protection system within the welfare sector in Phoenix: a systems approach perspective.
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Care and protection of children presents an ongoing challenge. Post 1994 there has been a significant shift in South Africa towards a formalised, child protection system characterised by comprehensive and sustainable interventions. The South African government recognises that a successful child protection system requires effective intersectoral collaboration and has generated an infrastructure of policies, regulations and strategic plans for the implementation of a comprehensive, integrated Child Protection system. The Department of Social Development, in collaboration with the Departments of Education, Finance, Health, Justice, and Safety and Security – including the South African Police Services (SAPS) – is charged with the responsibility for its implementation. This study is an initiative in Child Protection systems strengthening and aims to explore the community structures, networks, strategies and processes that reinforce, support and sustain existing programmes addressing child protection within the welfare sector. It focuses on the intersectoral, multi-disciplinary and collaborative relations within and between the designated departments, identifying gaps and duplication of child protection services. The study was undertaken in the suburb of Phoenix, which is located within the eThekwini Municipality of KwaZulu-Natal. The study applied a purposive sampling technique for the selection of key role players within the Health, Welfare, Education, Justice and Safety and Security sectors. A qualitative approach guided the generation of data using semi-structured interviews and a focus group discussion. The data were analysed using hematic analysis. A network analysis and a mapping exercise were employed to analyse the network of intersectoral relationships. Systems theory and interdisciplinary theories provided an analytical framework for data analysis. Research findings confirm that a child protection system exists in Phoenix. All respondents were aware of their legislative mandate to implement an intersectoral child-protection service-delivery system. It is evident that while there is intersectoral social-service delivery and cross-referrals amongst the core cluster departments at Phoenix, a lack of professional and financial resources has created gaps in service delivery. Addressing this critical professional and financial need will strengthen and enhance an integrated and collaborative child protection service. The recommendations of this study advocate for additional, appropriate resourcing, and improved coordination of services, ongoing communication between departments, and monitoring and evaluation.