Ulutho Legal Unit
The Legal Unit is managed by Russell Linde who has practiced as an attorney for 33 years and has worked with OVC (Orphan and Vulnerable Children) for nearly as long. He has been a safety dad, a foster dad and is an adoptive dad. He and his family also offered regular respite care for OVC.
Human Rights Day 2019
See Russel speak about the rights of children in South Africa
Russell Linde shares his experience and research into Legal Support for OVC with us:
“The work of the Ulutho OVC Program led us to realize that the legal rights of OVCs (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) were often overlooked. Already vulnerable children were being traumatised by a system that found it difficult to implement the protection that was found in the Children’s Act 38 of 2005. When researched, it was discovered that there was little, if any, easily accessible legal support available for those caring for or working with these children. The fact that certain sections of the Children’s Act were only implemented in 2010 showed us that:
- It was open to interpretation e.g. social workers and Magistrates sometimes had conflicting understandings of the Act.
- It made professionals nervous to take bold steps e.g. where it should have been argued for adoption, the child was left in foster care as this was the easier option.
- There was not enough training on the Act especially in outlying areas and some professionals simply chose to ignore the Children’s Act e.g. in the eyes of some social workers the mothers rights often superseded the children’s rights notwithstanding that the child was in need of care.
- Lack of resources required to implement this Act resulted in unnecessary delays e.g. court process.
- There was often insufficient accountability on behalf of those that made decisions about the welfare of a child.
- Private legal challenge was too expensive and many of the legal fraternity, that might offer pro bona support, had not kept abreast with this specific area of the law.
The aim of the Ulutho Legal Unit is to provide advice, training and advocacy.
- Advice would incorporate accepting cases for individual children whose rights were not protected (eg.conducting trials on their behalf) and to provide legal advice to NGO’s/ NPO’s working with or caring for these children.
- Training would include accredited 2 day training for social workers on the Children’s Act. It would also entail work-shops/ discussion groups for all stakeholders (Police and Magistrate Court officials) on portions of the Children’s Act.
- Advocacy would include lobbying Provincial and National Government Departments to highlight the legal issues confronting OVC’s and the need for greater support. It would also include facilitation between different stakeholders and especially between Justice Department and Social Welfare in order to foster liaison for improved working relationships and to help overcome delays in the system.