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Workers on the front line

The Child and Family Unit (CFU) is very much the emergency response unit of Jo’burg Child Welfare. It’s staffed by four teams of social workers, who play specialized roles in resolving cases of child abuse, neglect, abandonment and adoptions.

Children are brought to our attention either via office walk-ins or referrals. Unfortunately, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in walk-ins related to neglect, physical abuse and substance abuse by parents. Children are left alone when their parents go out, and babies are abandoned in hospitals and on streets.

But once children are referred to JCW, the CFU can begin the process of bringing balance and safety into their lives.

Three teams of social workers perform intake, risk assessment, prevention and statutory work, while the fourth team deals with adoptions.

A case normally starts with the intake social worker opening an inquiry and investigating children at risk.  The prevention social worker’s role is to evaluate whether children are at risk, whether they are receiving the necessary health care, food and basic necessities, and to help children stay with their families by encouraging changes in lifestyle or home circumstances.

Statutory social workers perform continuous investigations into cases and have the time-consuming task of obtaining legal documents, such as birth certificates.

In the adoptions team, social workers have the daunting task of obtaining documents, tracing families and facilitating adoptions of abandoned children.

The CFU always strives to finalise cases within 90 days with a placement in a foster family, children’s home or a referral to the adoptions team. It sometimes takes a bit longer but our focus is always on family first . . . and permanency, security and happiness for the children.

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