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Community urged to prevent child disappearances

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By Lee-Yandra Paulsen

Communities and the nation at large have been deeply troubled by the disappearance of six-year-old Joshlin Smith, sparking urgent conversations on how to prevent such tragedies from occurring. In response to these concerns, VOC Breakfast spoke to Elarna Siljeur, a Social Work Supervisor at the Department of Social Development, to explore the role of communities in preventing child disappearances.

Siljeur emphasized the importance of community involvement in safeguarding children, stating, “It takes a village to raise a child. Community members should regard all children as their own and actively watch out for their safety, whether they’re their own or someone else’s.” She stressed the need for vigilance among community members, especially when children are out in public spaces, to prevent harm and ensure their protection.

Regarding the reporting process, Siljeur underscored that any missing child is a matter for the police and must be reported at the nearest police station. She advised against accepting dismissive responses from police officials and encouraged individuals to escalate the matter to higher authorities or organizations specializing in missing children, such as Pink Ladies and Missing Children SA.

Explaining the department’s role in child protection, Siljeur clarified that the Department of Social Development does not deem parents unfit without due process. Instead, they conduct thorough assessments in response to reports of abuse or neglect from concerned parties. These assessments involve evaluating the child’s circumstances and allegations of abuse, and if necessary, removing the child for their safety.

Siljeur elaborated on the process, stating, “We place the child with a vetted safety parent after conducting extensive background checks and ensuring their suitability for caregiving. Our priority is to ensure the child’s well-being and investigate all allegations within a 90-day period.”

Furthermore, Siljeur emphasized the department’s commitment to supporting parents struggling with substance abuse or other challenges. They provide necessary interventions, including inpatient or outpatient treatment, to assist parents in overcoming obstacles to caregiving.

Ultimately, decisions regarding the child’s placement and parental suitability are determined by the court, which carefully considers the child’s best interests and safety. Siljeur emphasized that the goal is always to reunite families whenever possible, with appropriate safeguards in place to ensure the child’s welfare.

In light of recent events, Siljeur urged communities to remain vigilant and proactive in protecting children. By fostering a culture of collective responsibility and swift action, communities can play a vital role in preventing future incidents of child disappearance and ensuring the safety and well-being of all children.

VOC News

Photo: Pixabay

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