Parenting rights & the Children’s Bill
Paula Proudlock, Child Rights Programme
  The Children’s Bill, the new draft law that will replace the 1983 Child Care Act, contains a chapter on parenting rights and responsibilities. As part of a series of workshops to be held on the bill this year, the Children’s Institute hosted a workshop in February to test the proposed new parenting rights and responsibilities provisions against real life scenarios affecting children and their caregivers.

Case studies were used to look at six scenarios:
  • Children living in the care of relatives
  • Child-headed households
  • Children who have been abandoned
  • Children in foster care
  • Children’s inheritance rights and care arrangements when parents die
  • Consent to medical treatment for children not living with their parents

Five common themes emerged from the workshop:

  1. The bill is not clear on what court has jurisdiction to decide applications to acquire or terminate parental rights. Workshop participants preferred that the bill clearly state that the Children’s Court must be able to decide such matters, to ensure that the law is made accessible to the majority of children in South Africa.
  2. Absent fathers appeared in many of the scenarios. While it was clear that these fathers’ rights and responsibilities existed in theory, they were not being exercised in practice. As it is in the best interests of children to receive the care and support of both parents, the bill needs to look more carefully at how this can be achieved and how this is balanced against the parental rights and responsibilities of a granny or aunt who is de facto taking care of the child’s daily needs.
  3. It was recommended that all provisions relating to parenting rights and responsibilities should be incorporated into the parenting rights chapter because the provisions dealing with parenting rights appear in different places in the bill and this leads to confusion.
  4. It was unclear how the bill and customary law will complement each other, especially in relation to the rights and responsibilities of relatives caring for children, and the inheritance rights of children upon the death of a parent. Greater clarity is needed in this regard.
  5. Children’s property rights need greater protection when parents die. Little protection exists currently in law and in practice to safeguard children’s rights to their home and social insurance policies.

To order a copy of the forthcoming workshop report, please contact Charmaine Smith.


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