Sunday, 14 October 2018


doctorate in Social

At the Western Cape mini conference on the 2nd October 2018, Dr Shernaaz Carelse of the University of the Western Cape stressed the need for child and youth care workers to WRITE. Dr Carelse is well positioned to encourage us to write and to publish. She was a child and youth care worker in residential setting, now with a doctorate in social work. She knows well, as do I, that we, in South Africa have a lot to say.....and that's just what we do.  SAY it!  We are a nation of oral communicators. We are avid and animated story tellers, We don't write - very sad. YET, we all know the story..."If it's not recorded, didn't happen".

If we don't publish we run the risk of being regarded as a lesser profession in the social service professional sector. 

Prof Adrian Van Breda is the editor of the journal South African Journal of Social Work and Social Development published by University of Johannesburg and Unisa Press. In a message to me he said " Would be good to have child and youth care literature". There is another Social Work Journal published at Stellenbosch in South Africa, Social Work/ Maatskaplikewerk. ...good thinking to publish in more than one language and to publish digitally

Of course we have a South African child and youth care journal! And ... it has international recognition . The NACCW published quarterly CHILD & YOUTH CARE WORK. I live in the bushveld.  Postal deliveries are slow, to no go. So the most recent I have is Quarter 1, 2018. The editorial apart, there are 6 articles in the journal of which, 3 are contributed by South Africans. The others are gleaned from non South African writers or journals. Interesting that one of these is a research report form a Phd student from Hamburg on research she did in Cape Town Childrens' Homes.

We have in South Africa, members on the editorial teams of at least two international e-journals Relational Child and Youth Care Practice (published quarterly) and  CYC-on line published by CYC-net (monthly).

There are many opportunities and space for us, as South African child and youth care to contribute writing for editorial teams to consider for publication. 

We can create space and opportunities for ourselves. How about a monthly newsletter for a NACCW Region, or for your organisation.? We can always make our Annual General Report booklets into a something worthwhile with our child and youth care contributions. Write in the social media, tell the success stories, in-house research outcomes,...even just a literature review is a helpful piece of writing.

As child and youth care workers we must write!

I have a few thoughts for talk .......better....a few thoughts for writing.

Writing is like prayer, You have to do it, to learn how to do it.

Composers of music, I am told, often get, or hear a melody in their heads. In these odd, often inopportune moments, they have to grab something to scribble it down. As an aspiring learner writer, that happens to me. Thoughts, ideas, words come and I have to write them down, then and there, otherwise they go as fast as they came. Frequently a line, a phrase, or even a whole page gets scribbled on a piece of scrap paper at odd times.....mainly when I'm standing somewhere. I seldom write sitting down. We all have our idiosyncrasies.

Roald Dahl had a wooden garden wendy house. At a certain time every morning he would go there, wrap his legs in a blanket and write for a few hours. He disciplined himself to write every day. 

Googling seems to feature as part of writing. As does reading. Apart from the information bit, reading develops for us a lexicon, a compendium, a vocabulary, a bank of words and style which later flow from the unconscious.

Where can we, as child and youth care workers draw ideas for our writing?

Simply, from what we do, our programmes, our creative interventions, our "Aha" moments or our internal struggles with the tensions between theory and practice. Our South African praxis.     I can never tire of saying ....our value to the world is in our South African, our indigenous way of doing things. If its not recorded, never happened.

Now we get to the actual writing part. There are short courses offered on writing for publication. I hope that soon child and youth care workers in South Africa will have to gather Continuing Professional Development points ( CPD points) for continued annual registration as professionals. A course for CPD points for writing for publication in child and youth care work is enticing.

Pointer 1 . Decide clearly for whom you are writing. Who is your target readership? Academics? First time, setting-out child and youth care workers? The international world of child and youth are? Who?. Be very sure of this. Obviously, the target readership determines style and language. This blog is called Child and Youth Care TALK. The idea is to have a conversation with busy child and youth care workers. A quick,easy read.

Pointer 2. Decide on your message. A single main message is ideal. Some supporting sub-messages, some narratives and examples  support the message... then sometimes they become the message!   I had a High School teacher who always said of us as pupils, "You remember the story but you forget the POINT !" 

Pointer 3. Plan, at least roughly. A point by point draft outline. Then you can expand on the points to make an article.

Pointer 4. Find a suitable title....something that will grab the attention of your target readership.

Pointer 5. Then write,!!! -  editing can come later. Don't worry too much about correctness. If you don't see it when you edit, the editorial team will help you out. The South African Council for Social Services Professions, for example have advertised for a language expert to edit writing before it's published. Most editorial teams tweek material before it goes into print .

Pointer 5.Write, write write, frequently. ....then is begins to flow.

Pointer 6 Think about picture stories, videos  books and blogs. 

Again, if we can think, if we experience ....and we do,....then we can write. As South African child and youth care workers we are known to be fearless, outspoken, colourful, creative, child-centered hardworking and unique. At very least we can tell of what we do. With our special qualities captured in print, we should not and cannot be demeaned as a profession.



Sunday, 7 October 2018


A social media post with pics  told that a young boy stabbed a teacher to death. A follow-up post showed a pic of the boy. It said that the youngster died of epilepsy. I wept. I wept for the boy. I wept for the teacher. I wept for the the whole horrendous situation. I wept at the comments which said, mainly, "If this is true, then he deserved it." "Revenge is sweet". I couldn't help it. The tears just came. 

It was much the same when a news report told of a driver of a bus which overturned. Nine people died in that incident. The driver was found hiding in the back of a truck. He was arrested and taken into custody.
 I seem to live my life a moment away from tears. But, I said to myself, "This is OK, I'm in the privacy of my own home."

I was once visiting at a hospital when a patient died. The nurse drew the curtains around the bed, went into the glass enclosed duty room and sobbed. She was comforted by the other nurses.We could all see. I thought "professionally you don't do that" - at least she did try to make it private.

Is it OK for professionals to cry. Is it OK for us, as professional child and youth care workers, to cry?" 

I have cried on a few occasions. .....once openly sobbed.

We ran, what we called disciplinary enquiries" for young persons, especially the older ones if the incident warranted it. The idea was to mirror for them what would happen in the workplace experience in a safe microcosm of  life in the big world out there. 

The boy, near on 18, didn't come back after a weekend at his parent's house. He was 5 days late! I the course of the whole thing of "why?" It struck me that he had no experience of anyone caring enough about him for him to understand that ANYONE would worry about him and his did his child and youth care worker. I excused myself. Said there would be a 5 minute break; went out onto the verandah and cried.

A boy's family of 3, got killed in a car accident. He acted out at school which threatened expulsion. At our enquiry, he said, "I don't care, What do I have to live for?"......I cried. That "nothing to lose, don't care "...was just so sad,...scary and so very dangerous.

We stopped having "disciplinary enquiries". Instead we held "incident discussion meetings"which changed the tone and the nature of what we did.....more in line with restorative justice and restitution. I was sure that those big guys would experience any tears as weakness and an inability to provide FIRST for their needs.

When we were to leave the Children's Home for another work appointment the community of children were given 6 months notice. A Psychologist helped with the termination process It was all carefully, professionally and strategically planned . Two days before we were due t leave, 3 girls cut their wrists that night. When I reported. the next day at the final Board Meeting.... I openly broke down !!!! I was SO embarrassed! Professionals JUST DON'T DO THAT !!!! .. or do we?

Are we allowed to cry as professional child and youth care workers? We developed a protocol. Yes, but in private. And yet,,,, I saw times when tears seemed to add something to a moment of caring,...... not that often, I must however say. 

Then again, I saw what I called "unfortunate tears", moments of anger, frustration, disappointment. Often when child and youth care workers experienced the organisation ( or me!), as not providing enough support after difficult experiences.These tears seem to talk of the caring community, the therapeutic milieu and personal supportive supervision. I was fortunate in having really good intra-personal supervision. On a contract basis with a Board member. I received excellent supportive personal supervision from a psychologist and the from a past Director of a Place of Safety. This, believe me, helps it is essential when living a life close to tears as we do as child and youth care professionals.

We all know that tears are healthy, it's just that we are not expected to let our personal emotions interfere with our first responsibility.This is REALLY DIFFICULT ...We have to sort out our sympathy from our empathy. But, if you must, if you can, cry in supervision, ..and rather not in a glass enclosed duty room

Monday, 1 October 2018


No sweat to find a theme for this weeks blog!  There was a blaze of social media posts and comments on the recent Constitutional Court ruling that legalised marijuana (cannabis, dagga, weed) for household use....."weed is legal in South Africa."....."Holy smoke!" "weedsellers are now florists".......the plants can now be grown domestically...from what I could gather from the social media posts, 12 plants can be grown. Domestic use quantity for smoking can be carried privately. 

Judge Raymond Zondo's Constitutional Court ruling went like this;

Some extracts: 
" The personal use of dagga is not a criminal offence."

"The right to privacy is not confined to a home or private dwelling. It will not be an offence for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in a private place " (my italics).

"This judgement does not specify how many grams of cannabis can a person use or have in private.".........(the legislature will have to consider a quantity that  does not constitute undue harm) my brackets.

What's good about this judgement? Some say that the drug dealers who sell dagga, sell other stuff as well. What they are reputed to do is to introduce young people to harder drugs until a young person gets hooked. Then they kick in with the demand to pay. The dealers are accused of using dagga among young persons as a "gateway"  to the harder stuff. By legalising dagga for domestic use, they say, it could be possible that the dealer is left out.

In terms of the Constitutional Court ruling. it's still illegal to deal. It all depends on how much is being carried. The police have to make a decision.

BUT THEN:   I heard this twice from different sources. An Anti-drug action group said that legislation won't close down the drug houses. They said that the police have a monthly target figure for the arrest of persons in possession. The police they said, would not allow the drug houses to close They will still be protected to ensure that their arrest targets can be met. In fact, they argued, more street corner arrests for possession are likely.....their comment..." Moe people in jail....more children denied parents".??

The big argument in support,
Dagga is less harmful to health than alcohol or cigarettes. It is said to have beneficial health benefits, properties that fight or reduce the growth of cancer cells, is safer in the lungs and slows down the onset and process of Parkinsons and Alzheimer's. There appears some evidence to support this.

What are the negatives for young people?
Alcohol and cigarettes have an age restriction for purchase. It's 18 years. One our leaders in South African child and youth care posted a pic of the dagga plant on facebook with the comment: "for your own home only and not under 18". I queried whether he got the age restriction for purchase of dagga from the Constitutional Court ruling. His reply was "No, that came from my desk". I searched the judgement for an age restriction on the sale of dagga and couldn't  find one......only "for adult use". 

I'm not sure what it means for children age 13/14 to buy dagga. Presumably they will smoke it. My experience in a residential care facility was that the boys, when high acted out in a state of euphoria coupled with the loss of fear . A sense of being indestructible.... "if I jump off the roof.... I will fly!" .. type of thing. It's not called  "giggle weed" for nothing. Also there was a belief that physical prowess is improved. I don't know if that is so.
I have this possibly unfounded view that it's not wise or clever for a 13/14 year old to smoke weed, especially at school.
What do we really know about children and marijuana?
Little. As an illegal substance our researchers say that research has been slowed down or made almost impossible. Some research in the USA States in which it is legalised, show scanty evidence of any negative effects on fetal development of the baby in-utero. One research exposed the brain cells of mice and then living human brain cells to marijuana. They found evidence of a negative effect on aspects of neurological development which could affect cognitive functioning and problem solving into adulthood.
What if children smoke it? One statistic I found said that an estimated 61% of children in South Africa had tried it by the age 14....even if just as an experiment.
  Only recently a father spoke about his son who started out on marijuana at age 14. Graduated to nyope (wonga) and whose acting out was a risk to himself, property and others. So some social media comment is that with the legalisation of dagga will come a mindset that the marijuana mixes, like nyope are now legal.

Another concern is the effect that smoking marijuana may have on driving and so on motor vehicle accidents as this could well have an effect on children as passengers or pedestrians. The American states reported a nil effect. Alcohol related accidents ..yes, but the effect of alcohol and marijuana use when driving increaded the accident rate significantly.

Social Service Professionals are putting out different but strongly worded messages about the legalisation of dagga in South Africa. Some want the field to protest, to publish position statements. They want South Africa to know about the number of cannabis related cases to whom they have to provide interventive services. 
Some say that we now don't have to feel like criminals when we recreate or take marijuana based medication.

Right now, it all sounds somewhat dis-jointed!

Sunday, 23 September 2018


Child and youth care workers this week, posted on social media ...."We are"....We aren't", 'We hope ", "We don't". Messages of confusion.

The moment in which we live and work is rather like a juggling act 
with all the balls in the air.
Let us try to catch a few.

In March this year. the Department of Social Development's service level agreement( SLA) and memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the National Association of Child Care Workers came to an end. It was a five year agreement in which the Association was contracted to be the service provider for the training of nearly 9000 learners attached to Isibindi Projects throughout the country.
The norms and standards and the model itself was monitored, evaluated and maintained by Mentors. The Mentors were employed by the NACCW whilst the learners were contracted and paid by the Department of Social Development provincially. It was all done in  partnerships. All of these arrangements terminated on the expiry of the 5 year guaranteed period.

So, child and youth care workers in some provinces experience delay. Uncertainty and confusion go hand in hand with delay. It seems to be taking a long time. Here's a ball in the air for child and youth care workers caught in the juggling act. Where and when will it land?

Another juggling ball in the air.... The NACCW which designed and developed the Isibindi model provided the safegaurds that protected the child and youth care thinking, philosophy and practice of the model. Child and youth care workers are asking with some anxiety whether the model will somehow change. The National Department of Social Development now, in a sense, have a sort of ownership of the community-based child and youth care model. Will it's name change? Will, they ask, the approach, philosophy, the way of working, its practice, change?  For them,the ball is in the air. 

The red and the blue balls are in the air. Oops, there's a yellow one!

Child and youth care workers are worried about employment. Social media texts..."I have a degree and I'm not employed". This juggling ball could be airborne, in flight, because of a moment in our history. Just prior to the then Minister of Social Development signing the regulations that legislate the levels of professional child and youth care workers, the Professional Board for child and youth care work attempted a survey through the universities. The question was, "How many higher learning and degree graduates have we?" At that time the estimate was 600+. But where were they? Services were extensively provided by child and youth care workers with the Basic Qualification in Child Care ( at level 2 or 3) or with no qualification at all. In the promulgated regulations there is a "sunset clause", a granny clause, a catch all to give everyone a chance to register at the auxiliary level (even on the strength of a job description only). This was designed to be  inclusive and to give child and youth care workers a chance to get a qualification.
It was also understood that child and youth care workers who held posts and operated within the scope of practice of a child and youth care worker at the professional level, like supervisors, managers programme managers and senior posts, would retain their job titles and key functions. They had to know that they were secure. No-one was to be demoted. No jobs lost as a result of registration.
The thinking was and still is, that TIME would work this anomaly  out of the system.
Employers were expected to advertise and fill vacant posts with graduates when the scope of practice demanded a child and youth care worker registered at the professional level.

History is still working itself out, but has been unfairly and illegally slowed by employers who advertise senior positions and fill the posts with child and youth care workers at the auxiliary level. 
The child and youth care workers most left hanging in mid-air are those with a Diploma in Child and Youth Care Work at level six. They seem to be neither one nor the other. Advantage is taken of that. 
Statute does regulate all of this, but for as long as employers are allowed to ignore it, We remain in limbo and the juggle goes on.

The situation is not improved by the so-called "freezing "of government posts and the NGO's continue to struggle financially. (I've said that before!!!!)

Red, blue, yellow .... floating in the juggling act.
Haaai ! another just popped up! Its the black ball inscribed "salaries".....enough said.

But here's a green ball. Reach out to catch it..... The Isibindi Project can't fade out and die. It has stirred up the interest and support of the children and young persons, of the communities who benefited by it. It attracts funders because of its international status. Together with the Safe Park Model, and its add-on programmes it is rooted in South African soil. In some provinces it continues and in Kwa-Zulu Natal it is operating as Isibindi with a zulu word appended to its name. Take heart. It cannot fall and die.

And another close to hand --- Orange. There is a surge of interest for child and youth care workers to be employed in schools. This surge of interest could not have come at a better time. Possibly the Department of Education had a gestalt moment when press and the media reported a significant number of incidents involving violence, behaviour management needs, drop-outs, school rapes and a high pregnancy rate in schools.  The need for child and youth care workers in schools can no longer be a juggling act. ......reach and catch this one!

 Confusing times, but not without hope. With child and youth care established as a profession in South Africa and with the fire in our bellies, let them bring on the juggling clowns.....we know how to walk the tightrope and eat fire.

My Facebook cover pic reads
"When you are in a dark place, you sometimes tend to think that you've been buried.


Sunday, 16 September 2018


A telephonic comment made this week was that South Africa is regarded by many countries in the world as a leader of some aspects of child and youth care work ...That's good news for a change !!

Why so ?? It's worth some thought, some talk

The registration of child and youth care workers in South Africa puts us ahead of many countries world wide. It's interesting that much of the noise we made about  non-recognition as professionals is still being made on international social media by many other countries.

OK, we do still complain about non recognition because of the disparity of salaries. But registration as professionals is a statutory requirement to practice. It is a legal requirement that we adhere to a professional code and policy of ethics and conduct that  guarantees the protection of our clients. The accreditation of our qualifications by a Professional Board and Council is a field leader.We get requests from Africa, Canada, South America  and from the East for our regulatory framework and information into the process we followed.

An invitation has been extended to the Registrar of the South African Council for Social Services Professions (SACSSP) to attend an international conference in Europe. This raised a comment that it is important for the international community to know about South Africa's regulatory system. It appears that we may be unique in having field specific Professional Boards for all the social service professions and occupations with a single integrated co-ordinating Council. Right now it could well put us even further ahead here. Right now there is social work, child and youth care work, with community development, early childhood development and care workers coming down the track. Youth development work could well be hovering in peripheral vision.

Conceptual thinking within the social services professions could well put us further ahead in the leadership stakes Thinking such as  Integrated Case Management, and specialised child and youth care auxiliary work.

Another leadership feature in South Africa are the rigorous checks and balances in place to ensure.....Yes... GUARANTEE  that our qualifications meet international standards. What I like about this ( although it can be very time consuming) is that it's not just our qualification exit levels that are  interrogated. Content, learning materials, didactics (methodology), facilitators guides, learner guides,and workplace relevance .....all carefully evaluated and interrogated against minimum quality norms and standards. Again, together with a number of other regulatory bodies, the Professional Boards and the South African Council plays a seminal role.

Way back, in the days of the Basic Qualification in Child and Youth Care  (BQCC) at level 2 or 3, child and youth care workers who immigrated to the United Kingdom in particular were accepted and employed  on the strength of their qualification. We have grown considerably since then.

Let's get away from the SACSSP for a moment.

South Africa leads because of it has great leaders, nationally and internationally.I'm afraid to list them lest I offend someone through an unintentional omission. Still, for me, Brian Gannon stands out. His pioneering work in, for example, founding the National Association  of Child and Youth Care Workers(NACCW) in South Africa, his contribution to CYC-discussion network, his publications and his international status is of undeniable significance.
The  NACCW has spawned many significant leaders over the years...43 years to be exact. From this leadership came our registration as a profession after 25 years of active struggle.From this leadership and within teams was born our internationally acclaimed and unique South African models of child and youth care work...... The whole transformed South African system of child and youth care, our continuum of care from prevention to detention, our early models of excellence in residential care, group foster care , the Isibindi Project model of community based care, the Safe Park model with all it's add-on programmes.  Have I left any out? probably !

Then, our own internationally recognised NACCW South African Journal Child and Youth Care Work , our contribution in editorial teams to international journals and e-journals like CYC-Net e-journal, Relational Child and Youth Care Work . This gives us international credibility and puts us in the international spotlight.

Our Conferences. South Africa hosted a Federation of Child Educators Conference international conference. Even so, international leaders in the child and youth care field make a point of attending and contributing to our NACCW Bi-annual Conferences, Next year 2019, the Conference will couple also with CYC-Net International.

Le me's not just little old me trying to make out a case for our leadership in the child and youth care field. Comment on social media, messages, and comment in various media and global web-sites confirm thinking around our leadership in various aspects of the child and youth care field. 
Only recently there was a comment on this blog-site that If only we had leadership such as you have. We would be much better off.
It was an East Asian country I think....not sure.

Yes, we do have shortfalls....the struggle continues, really does.
Yes despite all African and international leads,we don't seem in our own country to experience the rewards of our recognition....especially in the issue of salaries. Remember a prophet is seldom recognised in his own hometown. But we continue our struggle with a certain pride, dignity and passion.

And that's another accolade. South African child and youth care workers are recognised internationally as persistent, diligent ,hard working and we put the the best interests of the country's children  first.

That is why we lead.


Sunday, 9 September 2018



There was a recent call on social media for a National Day of Prayer for the children of South Africa. It called for a 12 noon moment of prayer . The reason?... the horrifying number of child rapes coupled with child killings in this country. A web-site question at that time was entitled " Is it true that a child is raped every 6 minutes in South Africa?" The argument was that statistics reported cases didn't reflect the actual figures because of a culture, silence and unreporting. The upsurge of child rape incidences in South Africa IS horrifying. Made more so by the coupling of child rape with child killings, which of course hit the headlines.

My blog of 25th June 2012 was entitled, "Child now for the Safe Village" It quotes an editorial comment on the "horrifying" numbers of child rape cases......2012 !!! It quotes the African saying "It takes a village to raise a child. Then goes on to say, "Our villages are rotten to the core". The blog makes out a case for the opposite. Our villages are not rotten to the core.  Current community outrage has taken to the streets. Generally with the demand that the police to do more.

The blog makes out a case for the "Safe Village". Nothing has changed since 2012. It's worse , Surely, the time is NOW. As professional child and youth care workers we have a responsibility not just to advocate, but to ACT.

The Isibindi community-based professional child care project has done much toward child protection. It has an add-on Child Protection Programme. The Isibindi Safe Park provides 65 square meters of after school safety and early professional intervention. It is adulted with child and youth care professionals. Now let's take some of those principles and apply them to the village, the safe settlement, the safe street, the safe apartment, the safe neighbourhood.

In the social media this week appeared a quote by Jane Austin. "Every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies". further comment continues."Knowing your neighbours is one of the best methods of crime prevention as they know your sounds, lights, movement and can inform your security company when anything seems wrong. I can't afford a security company, but we have a community volunteer service called "Nieghbourhood Watch.

At one time , three houses up, a neighbour trained herself to read the signs that are sometimes drawn on the pavement or roadside outside a house to mark you, your house ,your vulnerability and risks for robbers. For one who IS vulnerable, this was re-assuring.

That's it!! It has to do with learning to read the signs of child vulnerability, And this is where the professional child and youth care worker is ideally positioned We are trained to do exactly that.... read the signs.We are trained to design safe environments We know what to do to ensure a safe environment and to follow-up.

During the struggle against apartheid, Street Committees played an important role. The Street Committee Chairperson lead the watch. People were sensitised to quickly spot any possible erosion of dignity or rights affecting the people living in the street, neighbourhood, demarcated area. I saw this system at work in an urban informal settlement in Johannesburg much to the benefit of the children living there. Street Committees were a force to be reckoned with !!

In 1996 forward the Department of Welfare launched a child protection initiative called "Circles of Care". Posters were erected everywhere in the more vulnerable areas of Johannesburg . There was one outside my house in the urban slum area in which I lived and worked. It was designed to mobilise people to organise themselves to keep watch. There was a telephone number to call as an alert if there was suspicion of a child protection need. I can't remember when that campaign came to an end.

At about that time also the concept of Project Management funding was introduced through regulation by Minister Geraldine Fraser Moleketsi. The funding model insisted that per-capita be replaced by funding on the strength of funding proposals from the agency that showed that it was providing not only residential services, but also, and essentially, outreach programmes for prevention and early intervention as well as partnerships and networking with community based initiatives. Residential service programmes all knew that they would not be funded UNLESS they were contributing actively to the care and safety of children in the surrounding neighbouhood. ....And I am not talking about lecturing to children in schools.

It's time!!. 2012 is long gone and our child rape and child killing incidences have escalated. We appear to have a child protection crisis exacerbated by violent child violations ....even death.

Not a serious comment ! Pity we cant fence the square meters of a village., A serious comment we can establish demarcated boundaries within which professional child and youth care workers can set up a Safe Village Model. It will mean that we empower respected and responsible adults within it. By far... the village is NOT rotten to the core.

I have sat for at least half a day at a time in local well clinics packed with young mothers, waiting for a child to be examined. Large numbers of primary care givers, guardians and grandmothers sit there. some organisations and initiatives use the opportunity of having a captive bored group of mothering women. Breast feeding, pap smears, contraception, avoidance of abortion ..... nothing on child protection. Nothing on reading the signs or signals that identify a possible initiator or risk, or what how to respond for the protection of any child in the neighbourhood.

School teachers and early childhood education practitioners are also critical role players in the Safe Village. Then too can be empowered by child and youth care workers to read signs ans signals. But also for example,to act by ensuring that children are accompanied in groups when they walk home. A walking "Lift club" Ensuring checks on transportation. Bottom line.... we really need child and youth care workers in schools and ECD Centres. One way of doing this is for them to Partner with the nearest residential Child and Youth Care Centre. This worked well for me when I managed an ECD in a high risk area. But then as I explained Residential Facilities were required to lend out workers for this type of preventive work

Then for the whole model, itself. The apartheid time Street Committee could be adapted because it worked and it works. Again, child and youth care workers are ideally positioned to offer 24 hr 24/7 support services. Residential facilities can provide drop-in services, Ambo-styled learning and empowerment services to community members, safe houses.... or at least safe house support, help-lines, reporting services within a multi-disciplinary team, easy access to police services, 

It can't be THAT difficult to design an empowered, supported SAFE VILLAGE. Therapeutic and protective environments is what we do. SO WE MUST DO IT.

We have as a knowledge founded and skills based profession ACT NATIONALLY NOW.

Sunday, 2 September 2018


You will by now be aware, social media posts often provide subject for these blog talks.This week it was a potent comment asking if Managers should be held accountable and be sanctioned with "consequences" when children and young people stay in child and youth care centres for 5 years and longer. Then, if not the Manager.....who ??? 

Good question.

And.... a question one would think should not have to be asked in 2018.

The transformation of the child and youth care system in South Africa  has had a long history. In 1995, South Africa signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In 1996, The South African policy for the  transformation of the child and youth care system was published in a book we called "the green bible", and implemented. The Transformation "bible"is congruent with the UN Convention and lists 17 Principles against which the work of  child and youth care centres came to be assessed. The most relevant to the problem of prolonged stay in institutional care are these; Normalisation, continuity of care, continuum of care. The Children's Act at that time was amended to contain a statutory  period of stay of 2 years, Thereafter any  further stay had to be well argued before the Child Commissioner. It was the parents who were declared "unfit". So it was the social workers task to show movement and give reason for an extended stay. Some of this has changed, but the principle of "shortest possible stay" remains. In concept, "movement" of the child underpinned the transformation policy and the South African system, and still does. The principles and the system hold good.

The whole of the transformed system is based on the idea of the child being in the "least restrictive, most empowering" life style.

In the macro system .....just a reminder of the range of broad categories.... Prevention, Early Intervention, Statutory. In the statutory continuum, there is ....remain with parent under supervision of a social worker ( and now possibly a child care worker)  foster care, adoption, place of safety, children's home, and what we now call child and youth care centres. (of old, ..places of detention).

But at a micro level, the concept of "least restrictive, most empowering" was applied to any residential service. Individualisation of programme and environment design was intended to provide children and young people the opportunity to move along a less restrictive continuum of care WITHIN the facility too. In this way they are supported, prepared, made ready, to move out (exit) to the more empowering life spaces in the macro system at the same time as any reunification, permanency plan work is done.

The social media post implied that this was not happening as it should for all young people. That some are getting stuck. Blame is being tossed around. Some say the Managers are to blame, some say the Commissioners,some say lack of resources, some say reunification services, some say lack of effort, some say once the child is in care the problem has gone away.

Because prolonged institutional stay is regarded as having negative effects for a young person transitioning into adulthood and because it is not in line with the major charters that mandate child and youth care, .. I thought that prolonging stay in a residential setting is an ethical issue .I still think this.

Then I wondered about the numbers or percentages of children placed in care where circumstances realistically made it impossible for them to be moved, in any way, out of a group residential programme as intended in our system. The best homework I could do was a statistical profile of children and young people in residential services recently conducted by the Department of Social Development in the Eastern Cape Province. The profile was done to get statistics on the children in residential services, to establish needs and their potential for some exit plan on the principles of the continuum and continuity of care. 1300 children were profiled. Of which, 112 had severe behaviour disorders,82 were abandoned, 38 were orphaned. 150 were in temporary care in places of safety of which 10 had severe behavioural disorders and 50 had stayed longer than 12 months with no plan.. ( the legal period of stay being 6 months). Taking these statistics and computing roughly, it would appear asif  3-5% of children coming into residential services require permanent alternative care in the Eastern Cape. From way back there lurked in the back of my mind that there were 2-3% of children coming into residential care in South Africa who would for various reasons not be be reunited, find kinship care, or some other form of placement. Also, there is a clear need for children's homes to take on a role of a treatment centre for some children , if not most. The reasons were, and still are the unmanageability of some children outside of professional care. Some have no support systems that can be traced (the so-called true orphan). some are too old for foster placement or adoption. They are legitimately somehow, stuck in the system. These children have their rights and hopefully their needs, met in what is frequently called "alternative care". SOS Childrens Villages were established and geared to provide such a service.

If the estimated calculations are somewhere near accurate, then it was legitimate to ask the question about prolonged stays in residential institutions. We certainly cant blame the system. As always South Africa leads the way with policy, statute and system. We often have issues with implementation.

In about 1996 the Department of Social Development (Dept of Welfare as it was then known) instituted a project called "Operation GO !"  Project GO teams were established. Mainly social workers in the Department, District, Provincial and National together with the facility social worker, Manager and the child care worker who was the child's "focus" worker. The purpose was to look at the status of the exit and permanency plan as the period of stay neared the two year mark. Plans were made for after-care, safety-net, and family support. Given logistic and resource shortages and heavy case loads, it often happened that the facility provided these services in the community. One could say that even then we had developed something close to the Integrated Case Management model. Certainly a Multi-disciplinary team approach. In Gauteng , and for a few years, Operation Go! worked very well. Then for some reason it stopped. In some provinces I have heard say that it didn't work that well. It would have floundered if the allocation of tasks didn't include the child's primary worker. and permit the support of the facility or if there was some form of professional territorialism.

I see hope in the Provincial undertaking to profile children in residential services, Though I was told that this was mooted in 2005.!! It seems to be a good start for the re-introduction of some form of Operation Go! This time round with Integrated Case Management, guaranteed effort-filled post residential care and support, professional transitioning for children, young people and families or community care givers. Isibindi is a very good programme to allow that young people get the professional support they need in a non-statutory non-residential setting.....and we didn't have the benefit of that resource in 1996.!! 

Then who will be to blame?  The full team !!