Each and every parent has an inherent parental responsibility to their children, by virtue of being a parent. The Children’s Act 2001 defines a child as any human being under the age of 18 years.
The Children’s Act, in section 6(1) provides that, a child shall have a right to live with and to be cared for by his/her parents. This gives a duty and obligation to the parents to take care of the child, and guarantees the right of the child to have parental care. The parents are therefore required to take parental responsibility over the affairs of the child.
Parental responsibility, as defined in the Children’s Act means all the duties, rights, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and the child’s property in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.
The children act stipulates the roles of a parent in exercising parental responsibility, which include providing the child with adequate diet, shelter, clothing, medical care including immunisation, education and guidance, protect the child from neglect, discrimination and abuse, among others.
The duty of a parent to the child has been buttressed in the Constitution. Article 53 (1) (e) provides that each child has a right to parental care and protection, which includes equal responsibility of the mother and father to provide for the child, whether they are married to each other or not.
The duty of the parent to the child is therefore not in doubt, the biggest challenge facing many young adults today is what happens to a child after he/she turns 18 years, when they are still depending on their parents.
According to the Children’s Act, every parent has parental responsibility of their child until they reach the age of 18 years. After attaining that age, all parents are relieved of their duties since the children have become adults.
In our family and social setting today, once children become young adults up, they are still incapable of maintaining themselves and have to rely on their parents to sustain them. They are normally not equipped to sustain themselves since they are just from high school and don’t have the qualifications to get employed and earn a living to cater for themselves.
The parents have to take care of their needs, just like they took care of them when they were children. Most parents understand that at 18years, a child may be regarded as an adult but they don’t have the education and skills to support themselves hence continue supporting them.
There are some parents who however, after their children become 18 years of age, stop providing for them since they have become adults. The children may however be in need of basic needs and further education. When such parents absolve themselves from their duties, they leave the children without any help.
The Children’s Act has appreciated the circumstances and the need to have parents to provide for their children, until the children have the ability to provide for themselves.
Section 28 (1) of the act provides that Parental responsibility in respect of a child may be extended by the court beyond the date of the child’s 18th birthday if the court is satisfied upon application or of its own motion, that special circumstances exist with regard to the welfare of the child that would necessitate such extension being made.
It is the duty and discretion of the court to view and weigh this special circumstances, with reference to the rights of the parent vis-a-vis rights of the child. Some of the common special circumstances include the need for a college education and medication. Lack of basic needs will also necessitate the court to extend parental responsibility.
An aggrieved young adult whose parents are able to support him/her, can compel them to support them, by making an application to court, seeking to have the parental responsibility of the parents extended beyond the 18th birthday.
If the court is satisfied by the special circumstances presented before it, it will extend the parental responsibility. The effect of this is that, the parents will be required to carry out their duties and obligations as though the young adult was a minor.