In a country which faces serious challenges in combating child abuse, RAPCAN focuses on the prevention of child abuse and neglect and the promotion of children's rights.
In 2001, RAPCAN established a new programme to support child witnesses. The programme provides services to child victims of sexual offences testifying in court proceedings.
The service is based in the courts and is designed to reduce the levels of trauma experienced by children giving evidence. This includes ensuring that children are properly fed, prepared for testimony in court and that they receive therapeutic follow-up services. It also goes beyond this by ensuring that the room in which the child is received is clean and calming, that court officials are trained and understand the needs of children and that further harm to the child is prevented by including family members in the scheme.
RAPCAN makes extensive use of trained lay counsellors to provide direct services under the supervision of qualified social workers.
In order to act as a resource to other organisations, and increase access to and quality of services, RAPCAN has developed the Child Witness Support Toolkit to enable other organisations to establish similar services elsewhere. The toolkit comprises training materials, a procedures manual, a costing instrument and minimum standards guidelines. The organisations are also provided with training and technical support from RAPCAN.
In response to a significant shortage of trained professionals in dealing with child sexual abuse, RAPCAN has also developed the Healers' Package to enable non-professionals to take sexually abused children through a therapeutic process of healing.
More than 6,800 children benefitted from these services in 2006 across six court sites around Cape Town.
Since receiving the Impact Award, RAPCAN has focused on three main areas of improvement for the organisation: the implementation of a new service-delivery model, investing in infrastructure and building an investment fund. The organisation recognised a need for sustainability and to assure its continued existence and service to the community in the field of children's rights.
The consultancy funding supported the development of organisational policy documents.
Photos: Andy Aitchison