MANGAUNG - the most recent One-stop Child Justice Centre
Ms A Senekal
The Centre's manager explains the process of establishing the Centre, its operational objectives and how the various role-players interact:
The probation officials of the Department of Social Development and the Department of Justice who work with children in conflict with the law, decided in October 1996 to form a committee to discuss ways to deal with children in conflict with the law. This committee invited officials from Nicro and SAPS to join them and they met on a monthly basis.
The committee decided to visit the One-stop Centre, Stepping Stones, in Port Elizabeth and after the visit in 1998 a business plan was compiled and submitted to the IMC (Inter-ministerial Committee) with the task to work out guidelines for the establishment of a centre in Bloemfontein.
The IMC approved the business plan and allocated R1,3 million for the project. The Monument Place of Safety in Bloemfontein was phased out and the premises were allocated for this project.
Mangaung One-stop Child Justice Centre
Two houses on the premises have been converted to form the Centre, and the Monument Place of Safety is in the process of being converted into a secure care facility. The latter will serve as a holding facility for children awaiting trial for serious offences. All personnel moved to the Centre in April 2002 and the Centre started operating in May 2002, with the official opening on 18 June 2002.
The Centre has a centre manager, probation officer, six child justice workers, one Nicro social worker, one magistrate, one prosecutor, one interpreter and an office for SAPS officials.
The Department of Social Development has a reception section where children and parents are assisted. The SAPS also has a reception section where children who have been arrested are assessed.
There are six holding facilities equipped with beds, bed linen, toilets and basins. There is underfloor heating for the winter. Each holding facility has a bell so that a child can call for assistance when necessary.
The Centre functions on a 24-hour basis. All personnel except the police work normal office hours, but the Social Development officials are on stand-by on a rotation basis. If a child has been arrested after hours, the police will contact the official on the stand-by telephone and he will come to the Centre to assess the child.
Team-building sessions are arranged on a quarterly basis for all personnel - the second teambuilding session will take place in November 2002. In this teambuilding session emphasis will be placed on interdepartmental relationships. Specific activities will be embarked on in order to ensure the different role-players work in unison. The social worker at Nicro will assist with this programme and some of the activities that are used in the Journey programme will be presented in this session.
Evaluation sessions on the progress of the Centre are scheduled on a quarterly basis.
The objectives of the Centre include:
Working at the centre with children in conflict with the law is an enormous challenge but also an opportunity to think and work creatively. If we succeed in strengthening children's positive points, they will be able to take up the challenge of a crime-free future. This echoes the pledge signed at the official opening of the Centre by the heads of the four main role-players:
"I hereby undertake to give the full support and co-operation of my Department and my officials to enable the Mangaung One-stop Child Justice Centre to create a restorative justice environment which will result in children becoming law-abiding adult citizens!"