'Removing the child from the problem won't fix the problem'
Activist believes government should focus on strengthening families in the community instead of on removing children
At nine she ran away from home to escape an abusive alcoholic mother.
Now 28-year-old Ntombi Qoyi plans to tell delegates at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018 in London next week, that authorities should have done more to keep her with her mother and her family.“I believe that the government should shift the focus to strengthening families in the community, prevention and early intervention programmes. Let us genuinely care about the well-being of people around us by taking necessary action to help them.“For too long the solution has been removing children and putting them in institutions, but after all these years it is clear that removing children is not the answer,” she explained.The KwaZulu-Natal south coast woman believes that children should not be removed to orphanages and that most families would not relinquish their children if they were given the right support.Qoyi currently works with Give a Child a Family, which is part of an international organisation Transform Alliance Africa (TAA) that is “working together for an Africa free from orphanages”.
Qoyi was chosen out of Eastern and Southern African nominees to address the meeting on the challenges of being in residential care.“I know there are cases where children have to be removed but I believe the best option would be for children to stay with parents. Whatever institute you end up in, it’s not a family. Your siblings are not there. Everything is routine and you don’t have the choice and freedom that comes with being in a real family,” Qoyi explained.
In the years that she spent in an orphanage before moving on to foster care, she missed calling someone mom the most.“With the right sort of assistance, my life could have been different. I still have real attachment issues and being in an orphanage still affects the way I relate with my family,” Qoyi said.“Sadly, my mother passed away in 2010 and only one person went to her funeral. While she was still alive, I would visit her now and then an, in the later years of her life, I realised that she had struggled herself and regretted a lot of things. We had an amicable relationship. If my mom could come back for a day, I would tell her how proud of her I am and that she did the best she could with what life had dealt her.”KwaZulu-Natal social development spokesperson Ncumisa Ndelu said it was almost impossible to estimate the number of South African children living in orphanages.
“It has a revolving door. For every one going in there may be three going out,” she said.
She said the department would have to do what was in the best interest of the child, even if it included enrolling the child in an orphanage.“I understand the longing for a family-type situation but if the family is not in the position to take care of the child then it is the responsibility of the department to make a plan for that child.”
“In some situations, children are raised by relatives who when the children were in need stepped up and became the child’s parents to give the children the closest thing to a home, but in the case when no one in the family is stepping up or found to be suitable the child will be put in a residential facility.”
Ndelu said not all vulnerable children were put in residential care.
“The majority are in the foster care system. Residential care is literally the last option.”