The Children's Act (38 of 2005) was passed by Parliament back in 2005. It aims to protect and promote children’s rights to:

  • Family care or parental care or appropriate alternative care when removed from the family environment;
  • Social services;
  • Protection from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation; and
  • Respect for the best interests of children.

The Children's Act starts by setting out children’s rights and parental responsibilities and rights and making it clear how children should be cared for and who can take different types of decision – including children themselves. It says that government must provide a range of services to support children and families such as early childhood development – nurseries and creches. It includes programmes to help families raise their children and protect them from violence and abuse.  But sometimes these programmes don’t work or don’t get to children in time, so it also includes social services for children who have experienced some form of abuse and neglect.

The Department of Social Development and UNICEF published three short booklets to help adolescents understand the Children's Act:

Booklet 1: Children and parents – rights and responsibilities

Booklet 2: Prevention, intervention and care

Booklet 3: The courts and the protection of children 

The Department of Social Development and the University of the Western Cape made a short film that tells the story of the whole Children's Act and how it helps children and families:

 The Children's Act