Jo'burg Child Welfare - Presentations delivered at AGM 2011

By: Jo'burg Child Welfare  11-11-2011
Keywords: Community Based Organisations

Presentations delivered at AGM 2011


The year under review was a watershed one in a number of respects. Jo’burg Child Welfare’s (JCW) century of service to the children, families and communities of Johannesburg and beyond received wide recognition and appreciation. Key legislation affecting children came into effect after a lengthy delay. This was also the year in which the World Cup came to South Africa, generating enormous excitement and a powerful spirit of national solidarity.

Action to prevent human trafficking

In addition to the positive energy which it created, the World Cup held potential dangers for vulnerable people, including children. JCW played a strong role in the joint mobilisation by government and civil society of preventive measures against human trafficking and other forms of abuse during the tournament. Assistant Director, Carol Bews, worked in a Southern African regional structure coordinating these measures, and JCW organised a range of educational and recreational activities for children during this period, when many of them might otherwise have been without supervision over the school holiday period - which had been extended to accommodate the soccer. In addition, JCW staff were among those who were on standby to provide emergency services should the need have arisen.

Also, JCW continued with a series of Lekgotlas, which had commenced in 2009, on the trafficking issue. Speakers from government and key organisations which are actively fighting this modern-day form of slavery shared their knowledge and expertise, and the media were enlisted to help generate public awareness, so as to protect people from falling victim to traffickers and to enable them to find help should this happen.

In the face of the concerted preventive efforts, the trafficking threat failed to materialise during the World Cup tournament. We have learned in this process that strong and focussed cooperative efforts between key role players, including the broader community, can be enormously successful.  This should provide inspiration for the tackling of other formidable threats to child and family wellbeing which we face in South Africa.

JCW’s widespread initiatives and collaboration with some 50 odd Community Based Organisations yields practical and beneficial results. 

Financing of services

Meanwhile, JCW faced its perennial challenges including that of funding. Whilst service demands upon JCW inevitably increase year upon year it is not always the case that Income flows in apace.  The impact of time of receipt of revenue is seen in the financial surplus recorded this year as against the deficit of the previous year. This came about almost exclusively as a result of the time of receipt of grants from the National Lottery. 

We added our voices to those of non-profit organisations (NPOs) countrywide in calling for a fair and equitable funding system, given that government, and the populace, relies on us for the implementation of many aspects of the Bill of Rights in addition to numerous statutes, policies and international conventions and agreements. The present funding dispensation is neither fair nor realistic and we will continue to campaign for this situation to be rectified. Whilst our partnership role with Government is relied upon, and referred to in Parliamentary reviews, it is most necessary that the requisite funding resources be provided – matching delivery with expectation.

We applaud the advances that have been made by government in developing our country’s social security provision and which have continued in the past year. However, the other pillar of our social development system - namely services to those who are poor, vulnerable and marginalised, or at risk of falling into these categories - continues to be neglected in national and provincial priorities and budgets.

Like NPOs all over the country, we have observed, with interest, the process of the Free State High Court case concerning NPO funding, in the hope that this will take our country in a new and positive direction, in which funding for essential social welfare services will be assured. This would enable organisations to constantly improve and strengthen their services, rather than having to be perpetually preoccupied with survival.

In addition to government funding, the contributions of the private sector and the general public will of course always be of the utmost importance.

In the year under review JCW participated, along with funding bodies and other NPOs, in research conducted by the Community Agency for Social Change (CASE) and the Children’s Institute on trends in private funding for the implementation of the Children’s Act. Unsurprisingly, this research confirmed the lack of assured financing for services such as those delivered by JCW.

Implementation of legislation

Two crucial and long-awaited statutes intended for the realisation of children’s rights under the Constitution, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child at last came into effect on 1 April 2010. These were the Children’s Act and the Child Justice Act, which between them have the potential to create a new dispensation for South Africa’s children. Unfortunately, in the case of the Children’s Act, this potential has been submerged for the time being in administrative chaos, arising from different interpretations of new legal requirements and from capacity problems in the courts and several government departments as well as NPOs. The National Child Care and Protection Forum, comprising representatives of relevant national and provincial government departments and national NPOs, has endeavoured to identify and tackle these problems, and JCW has made regular inputs to assist with this process.

A matter of deep concern has been the lapsing of huge numbers of children’s court orders, carrying with it threats to the security of care arrangements for the children concerned, and to the continued financing of these care arrangements. JCW enlisted the assistance of the Centre for Child Law in addressing this issue, which at the time of writing is still in the process of being resolved.

The Millenium Development Goals have been precepts and strong guidance aspirations for us for a long while – it is reassuring to note the attention accorded to them also by Government in Parliamentary reviews.

Concluding comments

The year under review was an eventful and challenging one for JCW, and the current year is proving to be no less so. We will continue, as we always have done, to work in close partnership with our stakeholders and with sector and other networks, as we strive, to the best of our ability, to serve the children and families who come to our attention, to bring about better social conditions and policies for children and families and their communities generally, and to strengthen the service system available to them.

Our many and various stakeholders can take comfort from the fact that JCW remains ever true to its mission, and that the outstanding management team, so ably led by the Director and her Executive team, continue to perform not only as top professionals but also with exceptional integrity. JCW has a most able and dedicated Board of Management, and it is blessed with so many staff members who go well beyond the bounds of duty.

A great deal has been achieved but we all know there remains, always, so much more we wish to work upon in our fractured society.


Jo’burg Child Welfare plays a key role in 2010 World Cup

As all of South Africa’s attention seemed to focus on the hype of the Soccer World Cup during 2010 so too, did much of Jo’burg Child Welfare’s (JCW) child protection services reach a climax. Our staff threw themselves energetically into programmes raising awareness on human trafficking and child protection activities that included running a daily child friendly space at the Elkah Stadium Fan Park in Soweto to providing a holiday programme at a primary school for all their pupils.

The children from our Masibambisane Centre and five of our Community Based Organisation (CBO) partners from our Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC) Forum excitedly participated in their very own World Cup competition as part of the ‘A Chance to Play’ initiative. Visitors to the Klipfontein Stadium could well have been mistaken for believing that they were at Soccer City with the noise emanating from child and adult spectators blowing vuvuzelas and shouting encouragement to their teams.

The extreme weather we experienced, one of our coldest winters to date, did not seem to dampen the spirits or enthusiasm of our staff, volunteers or children in any way. Many of our children from our Othandweni Family Care Centre in Soweto and Masibambisane had an experience of a lifetime as a result of receiving donations of tickets from Corporate South Africa, to watch some of the games.

The pride and enthusiasm of a unified South Africa hosting the World Cup was evident by the spontaneous and positive willingness of staff to go the extra mile in ensuring the protection of children in greater Jo’burg, whilst ensuring that ongoing expected service needs were met.

Community engagement in child protection seen as vitally important

The positivism felt in the country at the time led to JCW revisiting the role it can play in the long term protection and safety of children within their communities especially at a time in our history when high levels of crime are so prevalent. This requires JCW to engage with a range of role players and partners, both civil society and government, to develop programmes that can strengthen families and ensure that communities (willingly) take collective responsibility for the safety of its members and the healthy development of its children.

Our Thembalethu Life Skills and Economic Empowerment Centre situated in the decaying part of the CBD has been identified as our pilot project for this initiative and we are sincerely grateful to Dr. Barbara Holtmann, one of our ambassadors, for her guidance and support in developing objectives to meet these goals. Dr Holtmann developed a systems model “Safe Communities of Opportunity” that will be applied at Thembalethu. The CBD of Jo’burg however presents additional challenges due to the transient nature of the community. Many of its residents come from African countries and reside in derelict hijacked buildings with no municipal or other services.

The need to strengthen families through prevention and early intervention, promotion of resilience in the case of Orphaned and Vulnerable children, as well as to enable and build capacity in communities, are overriding strategic themes across all our services. JCW has, for many years now, initiated extensive partnerships by enabling communities through sharing knowledge and skills with the ongoing facilitation of the OVC forum that has 54 member organisations and the provision of social auxiliary training at Aganang Learning Centre.

An exciting new development is the recently introduced Granny Programme at Othandweni Family Care Centre that will provide babies and young children with the opportunity to form early significant attachments. This will enable young children to develop a better understanding of the world around them and a sense of their own self worth. The programme enlists the support of dedicated surrogate Grannies from the community to spend daily individual time with two children in which they receive stimulation, attention and love from a trusted adult. The desired outcome is to improve attachment and developmental skills that will help children ultimately reach their full potential.

There are huge risks for children who do not have these early attachments as they experience lifelong difficulties with intimate relationships, have generally poor social skills, poor affect regulation, low impulse and tolerance control, difficulties with anger management, and a lack of conscience. When young children do not have their basic needs met anxiety, fear and rage may result. The Granny programme aims to teach young children frustration tolerance, impulse control, realistic problem solving skills and social skills by providing comfort as well as rewarding positive behaviour and building resilience.

I thank Spence-Chapin, our US partner, for having the confidence in selecting JCW as their first African site at which this programme has been implemented.

Developing resilience in older children

Older beneficiary children are engaged in a range of life skills activities that promote resilience and as children learn best through play, sporting activities and games are used as a medium for strengthening values. The promotion of ‘A Chance to Play’, a project of terre des hommes, in our various facilities has facilitated this objective. An exciting event planned for early 2012 is the participation of sixteen 13 year old boys in the Junior Masters Soccer Tournament, a national event sponsored by VW South Africa.

An independent living programme is currently being developed at Othandweni for older children who have no family links. Plans are also underway to establish a former residents’ association – many of these young adults can play a significant role in assisting with the adjustment and integration of institutionalised children back into communities.

Our preventive and early intervention programmes provide support and guidance to parents through parenting skills training that promotes a nurturing and caring environment. This may involve individual counselling or supportive group work.

However, poverty, single parenthood, which is particularly prolific in urban areas and the HIV and AIDS pandemic have had an overwhelming effect on family life. The resultant situation of fractured families poses a huge societal risk as the inculcation of essential values is rendered most difficult. With the high incidence of single parenthood in so many of South African children’s lives, international research suggests that the presence of a father can contribute to improved intellectual functioning and achievement at school.

As responsible members of communities who are concerned about crime in our country we all have a role to play in supporting programmes that promote nurturing and safe environments for our children. Furthermore, this can only be achieved with positive role modelling by parents, be they biological or surrogate, extended family members and/or significant, concerned adults in the community.

In recognising the significance of education it is really pleasing to report that scholastic results improved from 82% to 87% at Othandweni and we now have a young adult in his second year of BA studies at the University of the Witwatersrand. Three children there passed their matric examinations, of whom two are enrolled in tertiary studies and the other is a presenter with Soweto TV.

Masibambisane, our OVC centre, produced three matriculants and we continue to achieve our objective by ensuring that all our children in the programme attend school. This situation is very different from 2003 when the centre was established as many of the children were not enrolled at schools.

JCW remains indebted to the Rheinallt Jones Trust that was established specifically for tertiary education for foster children. 2010 saw our first two graduates, these students completed studies for a BA (psychology) and a BComm in banking. Another student obtained his National Diploma in Accounting. Since the inception of this Trust fund eight students have completed diplomas, two have finished degrees and nine students are currently at various stages of their studies. JCW thanks the trustees for their support of our foster children.

In-house training

Social workers benefited from training offered by CATTS and we are particularly indebted to Di Levine, a retired social worker, who continues to provide training that has been so beneficial to staff that are inexperienced in child protection work. Safety Health and Environmental training took place during the past year. I thank Dee Blackie who conducted Infinite Possibility personal empowerment workshops with all our staff.

Finally, we at JCW can with pride celebrate the achievements of providing opportunities and meeting the needs of children, families and communities due to the dedication shown by all our staff and volunteers, especially the Board of Management and Patrons who continue to offer support and through their sharing of expertise add value to our work.

Keywords: Community Based Organisations

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