Child absconding from alternative care

Published by:
Link to Children’s Act 38/2005: Source

The summary:

We work with broken children who are removed and placed and sometimes transferred or returned. This is not how their lives should have been, but this is the reality for many children in SA! Child protection/designated social workers are there to help them in this journey.

For a variety of reasons, some children run away from these safe places.

This section, applies to that scenario:

  • Section 170 of the Children’s Act, 38/2005 gives us clear instructions on what to do when a child in alternative care absconds (i.e., runs away) from alternative care.
  • (1) Basically, the designated social worker who placed the child in that alternative care is responsible to go and look for and apprehend the child who absconded.
  • (2) When this child fails to return to the alternative care after the expiration of leave of absence, the same principle (mentioned above) applies.
  • (3) If the designated social worker, or if a police official does the apprehension, has reasonable 1 grounds to believe that a child is in or on certain premises, the designated social worker and police official can enter and search the premises, without a warrant, for the purpose of apprehending the child.
  • (4) The police are allowed to use force to overcome any resistance when trying to apprehend the child. The police must first and foremost ensure the safety of the child and notify the designated social worker and DSD (if the designated social worker is not apprehending the child him or herself).
  • When you apprehend the child (that being you the designated social worker, or a police official) you can complete the Form 36 and select the third option from the top as the reason why you are removing/apprehending the child from where you find the child, and submit this with your short court report to the presiding officer for the purpose of the abscondment hearing.

After apprehending the child?

  • The designated social worker must inform the clerk of the Children’s Court and request for an immediate (as soon as possible) abscondment hearing, and until such hearing takes place, keep the child in place of safety in terms of Section 152, or return the child to the original alternative care – depending on the context and facts of the case (always consult with your supervisor).
  • The designated social worker must compile a short report in terms of Section 170 of the Children’s Act, 38/2005, and submit it to the presiding officer, detailing what happened and making appropriate recommendations. Remember to interview the child (Section 10) and be sure to include the child’s viewpoint. All complaints or allegations of the child must also be investigated. Interview all parties involved; conduct a thorough investigation into the reasons for the abscondment.
  • The presiding officer will then make an order (see sub section 6-8 for details).
  • One last point, if anyone knows that a child [who is in alternative care], absconded, or supported (directly or indirectly) the child to abscond, or prevents the child from returning to alternative care, they are guilty of an offence (See section 305 (1) (k) of the Children’s Act, 38/2005).

  • 1 If someone else were there, there would be enough objective facts to believe the same