This is a story related to Nonceba Meyiwa by a social worker from her community in Nigel, Gauteng Province.

"As welfare organisations, we are experiencing problems regarding the placement of children who have psychiatric illnesses. There are no institutions that accommodate these children. We are having problems because most children who have psychiatric illnesses - it's because of the fact that they are facing difficult situations. Most of them are orphaned, and there's no one to look after them, and that's why they need to be placed in institutions, where they can be cared for. In many cases, the Justice system will respond by saying that the family must take responsibility for them.

Institutions for adults who have psychiatric illnesses are available, why can't children be accommodated? This dilemma triggers other problems, as illustrated by the following example:

In Duduza Extension 2 there is a boy aged 14 with a psychiatric illness. He goes through phases of very destructive behaviour - he even set his home on fire when he was having a bad episode.

His parents are deceased, and therefore foster care procedures were required. Social workers were unable to render services as his siblings ran away from home. (The oldest went to live with a friend and the youngest went to the street.) Efforts were made to find the child an institution, but they failed even after all the required documents were gathered. The only stumbling block was an institution. The family and friends were told that the child was too young to be placed in a mental institution.

The difficulty is that the boy is not always 'sick" and sometimes he acts normally. He wants to go back to school, but we are not sure how he will cope, or whether he will have another breakdown if a stress occurs."

Problems identified:

This case study highlights key problems and gaps that exist with regard to services for children with mental health illnesses: