Pretoria - The Department of Health is considering taking legal action to remove the unaccompanied children who are living at the Johannesburg Central Methodist Church.
Social workers have been trying to remove the children with the help of the church and school principal to no avail.
The Gauteng Health and Social Development Department, national health department and non-governmental organisations held a series of engagements with the leaders of the church to have children moved to safe accommodation.
In the last meeting on 4 December it was agreed that the children would converge at the church on Monday for their assessment and removal to shelters.
However, when social workers arrived at the church, neither the children nor the school principal who was supposed to assist in the process were there. Further to this, when officials went to the school to locate the children, they saw some of them running away.
The department and the Johannesburg Child Advocacy Forum have been working for several months to have children placed in registered youth and child care centres.
The formation was established by non-governmental organisations to address the right of these children to safety, protection, care and education.
So far, 38 children have been placed at Kids Haven while 16 were placed at Siyakhula Children's Home.
The department said it had an obligation under the Child Care Act to safeguard the rights of children to protection, safety, care and education. This applies to all children irrespective of legal status.
The department said it was determined to enforce these rights.