History of the Division

The Child and Adolescent Psychiatry outpatient service was started at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital by Dr Vera Buhrmann, a psychiatrist, in 1964. A decade later the service was fully developed, with its own premises, three child psychiatrists, a multidisciplinary team, and a day programme for seriously disturbed children in a converted house nearby. In 1978 the Child and Family Unit (now referred to as the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (DCAP) moved onto the present site at Sawkins Road, Rondebosch. From these small beginnings, a very active Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has developed over the years.

By 1981 satellite clinics and community services for children were operating in Retreat and Mitchells Plain, followed by clinics in Crossroads, Guguletu and Khayelitsha. In the 1990s a parent infant mental health service was established at DCAP and in Khayelitsha. In 1991 a small 6-bedded inpatient unit for children under 13 years of age was added to the day treatment programme. The combined programme was renamed the “Therapeutic Learning Centre” (TLC). The Adolescent Day Unit, originally based in Roman Rd, moved to the William Slater Centre in 1991, and to Sawkins Road in 2006. The William Slater Adolescent Unit was the first multicultural unit for adolescents in Cape Town.

Due to the efforts of DCAP and the Department of Psychiatry, the subspecialty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry was recognized by the Health Professions Council of South Africa in the 1980s, and the first Advanced Course in Child Psychiatric Nursing by the South African Nursing Council was started. Subsequently, a two-year postgraduate training programme for psychiatrists and clinical psychologists culminating in an MPhil in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry was established through the University of Cape Town, with the first candidate graduating in 1985.

In 2006 the University of Cape Town received a significant endowment from Dr Andreas and Mrs Sue Struengmann to fund a Professorship in Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. In 2006, Prof Alan Flisher was appointed as the first Sue Struengmann Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. He was a pioneering Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist in the fields of global and public mental health, and set up the Adolescent Health Research Unit and a very significant public mental health programme. Prof Flisher died in 2010, but left a lasting global legacy in child & adolescent mental health. He was succeeded in 2012 by Prof Petrus J de Vries.


The Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry is part of Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. Our physical base is at 46 Sawkins Road, Rondebosch, which includes 3 historic buildings opposite Rondebosch Common on a very pleasant and ‘child & family friendly’ site. We run a busy outpatient service in two clinical buildings (referred to as Building A and B). Our inpatient unit (the Therapeutic Learning Centre – TLC) for children under 13 years is based in Building C. We also run neuropsychiatry clinics and consultation-liaison activities on the Red Cross Site.

Clinical Services