Answer to a question from a reader

I am a minor. What can I do if my parent is being neglectful?

The short answer

You can contact Childline South Africa. Social workers try to help parents look after their children better.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I am 17 years old. I live with my mother but she doesn't support me or even buy sanitary towels for me even though she is receiving a SASSA grant and maintenance from my father.

The long answer

Your mother is legally obliged to support you and buy you sanitary towels. The Bill of Rights in the Constitution says that “every child has the right to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse and degradation”.

If your mother does not support you and give you what you need, although she is able to do so, she is guilty of neglect.

The law that protects children in South Africa is the Children’s Act of 2005. Under this law, a case of neglect can be reported to the court and a social worker will be sent to investigate. Social workers do not want to break up families. They must try to help parents to become better at looking after their children. Only if the social worker thinks a child is in danger will the law be used to remove a child from the family house.

Perhaps the place to start is to phone a counsellor at an organisation that offers help to children, like Childline South Africa. You can phone at any time on their toll-free number at 08000 55 555. They are open 24/7. You can tell a counsellor about your problem and they will give you advice. Many children use this service.

If you have a good enough relationship with your teacher at school, you can also ask for help there. Teachers and doctors are legally obliged to report neglect if they become aware of it, and a social worker would then be sent to investigate.

Wishing you the best,

Answered on May 5, 2021, 4:17 p.m.

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