Court is in session: practical training for 2nd year Social Work students

Hanlie Smuts -- Tue, 03/01/2016 - 09:45

Court is in session: practical training for 2nd year Social Work students 

“The system is failing our children. Social workers are intimidated by legal bulldogs, and are afraid to step up and fight for abused and neglected children.” This is according to Dr Elmien Truter, registered social service Ppofessional and expert in Social Work at the Vaal Triangle Campus of the North-West University (NWU Vaal).

She is concerned that Social Workers are not properly prepared for the realities of their future profession and as such she intends to make sure her students will be able to champion the cause of every case they process.  

With this in mind she recently took her second year students – who is currently busy with the module: “Childcare legislation and associated social work interventions”, BSWG212), to experience an actual sitting of the Vanderbijlpark Children’s Court.  When she is not lecturing at the University, Dr. Truter practices as an active statutory social worker for Child Welfare South Africa

Above:  Dr. Truter and her students with Ms. Aletta Koch outside the Vanderbijlpark Children’s Court

Together with Ms. Aletta Koch, a clerk at the local children’s court, she organized the visit for the NWU Vaal -students to gain first-hand experience of the workings and procedures at the Children’s Court.  By special arrangement, the 24 students were allowed to sit in on actual court proceedings and see the facilities, meet the role-players and familiarise themselves with the administrative tasks being undertaken in the process.

The best is yet to come

Every student will have his/her day in court when Dr. Truter and her class undertake another court visit, scheduled for 14 and 16 March.  This time, she has a lot more planned for her students:  they will learn all about the removal of a child by means of a so-called Form 36 (where a child must be removed from the custody of a caregiver if the child is in need of urgent care and protection).  The theory will be discussed and the documentation completed - as is required in any case in which a child needs to be removed. These documents will then be submitted to a practising legal practitioner and colleague of Dr. Truter, Miss. Melanie van Aswegen, who will scrutinize each case. By means of a simulated court proceeding each student will be put under cross examination.  This simulation will take place in the presence of Dr. Truter who will facilitate the process as a learning experience while each student has to fight for the merits of his/her case. 

This learning experience will confront students with a lot of harsh realities that professional social workers need to anticipate and deal with.  Dr. Truter explains that child abuse is not limited to any specific race, culture or economic class.  “You will find these harrowing acts take place in what society deems to be the best of families,” she says.  “That is why these simulations are of pivotal importance to make sure our Campus sends competent and well prepared Social Workers out into the world.”

More about Dr. Truter

Dr. Elmien Truter is a registered and qualified professional South African social worker with 8 years’ experience in delivering statutory/child protection services. Whilst she is a full time social work lecturer at the Vaal Triangle Campus, she remains involved with child protection services by managing statutory cases part time. She obtained her PhD in 2014 and her research interests relate to resilience in child protection social workers, prevention of child sexual abuse, improving child protection systems in South Africa, and developing resilience promoting intervention programmes for child protection social work supervisors.