Since the early 1990s, the number and scope of diversion programmes for children has grown in South Africa. Children have expressed their support for these developments and see these interventions as more beneficial than punitive sentences, which rarely succeed in discouraging young people from committing crime again. A cost analysis has shown that the initial investment required for developing suitable diversion programmes will quickly be recouped by the reduction in the amount of time that children spend in custody. Yet in practice, diversion is occurring in the absence of a regulating legislative framework and has been implemented in a selective and disjointed manner. This situation will undoubtedly improve with the enactment of the Child Justice Bill (49 of 2002) drafted specifically to promote and regulate the diversion of cases away from formal court procedures. This paper reviews the literature available on diversion in South Africa, examining the concept, the formalisation of diversion practice through the Child Justice Bill, and the practice of diversion thus far in South Africa.