Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Plea to 702 to raise awareness around the plight of children at the Central Methodist Church

Moira Simpson, Director of Kid's Haven and Founding Member of the Johannesburg Child Advocacy Forum called 702 yesterday in response to the Methodist Church of South Africa's support of the civil action against women and child abuse on the weekend. The JCAF's response to this, as requested on air by John Robbie is below. This highlights the irony of of the public face of the church as opposed to its own inaction, despite supposed structures to manage these issues, in this highly publicized, but publically sanitized case that has been ongoing for years.

Goodday Mr Robbie

You spoke to a colleague of mine from the Johannesburg Child Advocacy Forum at the end of your show today. We have been struggling for a few years now to manage the issues around children at the CMC, the Soweto Centre (which sprung up after the previous crisis in the media) and the Albert school (which draws predominantly foreign vulnerable children to the inner city of Jhb). 
The MCSA started a Children's Desk in response to the issues raised in the previous crisis around unaccompanied minors in the CMC.
We assisted them in writing a child protection protocol and editing their children's policy.
Most recently we have had clients who live at the CMC with children aged 2 month to 6 years of age who have asked us to have their children placed in alternative care as they are unable to care for them at the CMC, particularly when they are trying to find work and they need to leave their children alone to look after themselves. Another challenge was that the department of Health (City) condemned the creche on the premises (called FLOC).
We appealed to the presiding Bishop of the MCSA, who referred us to Bishop Witbooi, who has not responded. we then also addressed our concerns and need for intervention in a Methodist building to the Children's Desk's Victoria, also no response. The only correspondence we have had was an acknowledgement from the administrator at the head office to tell us to contact someone else, not even an internal referral nor acknowledgement from any leadership of our concerns.
We have asked for assistance from Social Development who referred us to Child Welfare who have interviewed the families.

We remain deeply concerned and are not satisfied with the church's response and are currently asking for clarity from Child Welfare re their interventions.
You mentioned another aspect of the Children's Act and adoptions today, our concern is that the new Act also need to be tested in terms of what services need to be rendered to the families mentioned above and what responsibility the Church should take as they are the landlords of an illegal shelter not suitable for anyone to live in.

Thank you for your time and passion
Be well
Luke Lamprecht
Convenor JCAF  

Luke Lamprecht 
3rd  Floor Children’s Memorial Institute
13 Joubert St Ext

Dear Mr Robbie,

I am a clinical psychologist running a community mental health service and, like Moira Simpson and Luke Lamprecht, am very concerned not only about the conditions under which children continue to live in the Central Methodist Church, but also about what seems to be complete apathy on the part of the Methodist Church of South Africa. Our appeals to the Presiding Bishop, to Bishop Witbooi and to the social worker responsible for the Children’s Desk have so far gone unheeded.

Moira, Luke and  myself are founder members of the Johannesburg Child Advocacy Forum which was really born out of our collective concern about what was happening to children and young people at the Central Methodist Church. We were the first to move unaccompanied children living in the church to Kidshaven, at their own request, in 2008 and 2009. As a result we were banned from entering. Our joint efforts to bring the situation to the notice of the church, the local authority, the state and the public in general led to a huge outcry in 2009, and various intervention plans were developed with the Department of Social Development, all of which were sabotaged. In the end a curator was appointed by the court to see to the statutory processing of all the unaccompanied children in the church by the end of 2010. Most of the under age children on the original list were in the end placed, but this list did not include the over 18s, the children living in the church with some kind of care givers, those born and raised in the church, or those that have arrived unaccompanied since then. It must be noted that as a result of the advocacy process led by JCAF, Luke Lamprecht was asked by the Methodist Church of South Africa to draw up protocol for the church’s newly established Children’s Desk.  This was completed just about a year ago, but it seems that the standards the MCSA claims to ascribe to do not apply to the care of children living in the Central Methodist Church.

In the past three mothers have come to our centre in Bertrams to beg us to take their children into care. We have tried to get Child Welfare to act on the one case for over a year now to no avail. Two other mothers have requested the same intervention more recently. Child Welfare’s argument is that the children cannot be placed because the mothers are not “bad” or “abusive”, but are simply living in bad conditions (like so many other people). The reality is that these conditions prevail in a church which claims to offer “services” and shelter and which refuses to acknowledge or seek help in either creating proper conditions under which people can live, or moving them to more appropriate shelters. Three weeks ago the mothers were in a complete state of panic all people remaining in the Central Methodist Church had been told to leave by the end of the week. The reality is that “giving up” their children into statutory care is all the hope these mothers have of ever ensuring that their children have some chance (however limited we know this to be) of a better life. How much neglect and abuse does it take for a  mother to make this ultimate sacrifice?

I therefore support Luke Lamprecht and Moira Simpson in their call to break the silence around the Central Methodist Church in particular, and the apathy of its mother body in general. We also are looking for ways of challenging the decision made by statutory bodies to leave the children in this situation because their caregivers are not abusive..

Kind regards,

Johanna Kistner
Executive Director/Clinical Psychologist
Sophiatown Community Psychological Services
4 Lancaster Street, Westdene, 2092

Dear Mr. Robbie,

I am Libby Johnston from Refugee Aid Organisation (RAO). I support Luke Lamprecht, Moira Simpson and Johanna Kitsner in their appeal for action against the Central Methodist Church. I also support finding ways to challenge Child Welfare and DSD's decision to leave children in harmful situation because the children are not being physically abused. This is absurd, as the Children's Act clearly states that a child should be removed if he/she is found to be in need of care. The CMC has been deemed unsafe and unsanitary, it is a travesty that social worker assigned to protect children are actually the ones making them suffer.

As stated earlier I fully support Luke, Moira and Johanna's request to take action on both parties.

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