Child Maintenance Difficulties South Africa
CMDSA is an acronym for Child Maintenances Difficulties in South Africa, founded by Felicity Guest in July 2014. It started as a Facebook group to offer support to people going through the maintenance system. Felicity started this due to her own traumatic experience in the court system which lasted many years. It currently has over 42 000 members and growing daily. The group is very supportive and offers people advice on what to do when navigating the family court system. The group is managed by a strong admin team consisting of a retired magistrate, a retired maintenance officer, a paralegal, three mediators and seven moderators.
With her personal insight of the impact of maintenance challenges, Felicity has become an activist for human rights, social justice, gender equality, financial abuse and social change, with a particular interest for the rights of children and the parent who is the primary care giver. The natural progression was to register an NPO or and NPC. Funding is required for the many projects that the group is currently involved in, the NPC was registered in October 2017 and in the process of obtaining their PBO and NPO status. In the past four years this has been entirely funded by Felicity and her co-directors on the NPC, Nina Mensing and Johan Botha.
The mission statement of CMDSA is ‘To empower parents through education and advocacy to deal with conflict in their personal lives primarily around family matters, to create a better state of being, to be healers in their own lives which will ripple out to the rest of society, focusing on THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD, and the promotion of respect and compassion’.
The objective of CMDSA is as follows:
TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT1.1 To train community members in the skill of mediation in family matters, the skill can be used in the resolution of other disputes in communities and prevent the escalation of abuse particularly towards women and children. The intervention at the early stage would pave the way to speedy agreements on maintenance and parenting responsibilities which could then me made an order of the court. This would alleviate days wasted at the maintenance courts and encourage both parents to co-parent effectively. This intervention would encourage both parents to be involved in the lives of their children. The statistics of absent fathers is that there are approximately 13 000 000 children living in single headed households with the majority of fathers being absent and not financially supporting their children. There are many reasons why parents are absent; they are not aware of their rights, they believe that because they do not see their child they do not have to contribute financially, patriarchal attitudes that it is the woman’s responsibility to raise the children, unresolved conflict that led to the relationship breaking down initially or they themselves came from a home with an absent father, our history of fathers having to go to cities to seek employment and leaving families behind still has an impact, some fathers perpetuate their own childhood experiences.
1.2 To train maintenance clerks and officers in sensitivity training and mediation skills to be unbiased and act in the best interest of the child as enshrined in our Constitution.
2.1 Informative workshops for corporate which provide employers, managers and senior staff training in awareness of the difficulties that their employees face from the first and subsequent appearances at the Maintenances Courts. This process often has many layered effects on the person who seeks recourse through the courts, often leading to depression, anxiety and PTSD. The system is dysfunctional at its best due to the moratorium on the hiring of staff for the past two years. Many companies have employee wellness programs that offer counselling, which is the only effective benefit, the access to legal counsel consists of a phone call which does not prepare them sufficiently for the journey ahead, lawyers do not know what the actual experience is for people going through the system and most mothers do not have the financial resources to engage legal representation. The person acting on behalf of the child is prejudiced in many ways in the work place; the amount of leave taken for court appearances, and often reprimanded about time taken off, the continual financial hardships experienced by single mother headed households whilst seeking relief through the courts which takes months if not years to resolve and how that might impact on productivity. With awareness, managers would understand and be able to support their employees effectively.
2.2 Informative workshops for employees to prepare them emotionally, psychologically and practically so that they are prepared in all aspects to manage the process, know their rights, and how to insist on justice in line with the Constitution, they are more knowledgeable and can achieve a better outcome for their children, and prevent unnecessary additional delays and disappointments. The employees have the support of the group to lean on and guide them through the process. Often family, friends and colleagues are not the best support as they do not understand the impact and heard it to many times.
2.3 Public workshops to inspire parents to parent positively. To prepare them emotionally, psychologically and practically so that they are prepared in all aspects, they are made aware of their rights; they are more knowledgeable and can achieve a better outcome for their children, to prevent unnecessary additional delays. They have the support of the group to lean on and guide them through the process. Often family, friends and colleagues are not the best support as they do not understand the impact.
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