A lot still needs to be done in moving child and youth care work to a new level in South Africa.
Improvements need to be made in terms of transformation, development and working conditions for residential and community care countrywide.
This was highlighted by several speakers during the closure of the 21st National Association of Child and Youth Care Workers (NACCW) biennial conference, which was rated as a huge success.
Hosted in Kimberley’s Mittah Sepe-repere Convention Centre, the three- day conference from 4 to 6 July saw more than 600 delegates of different provinces in the field gather to celebrate breakthroughs and tackle challenges in South African child and youth care work.
The care givers were applauded for their work by, among others, the CEO of the Community Chest, Lorenzo Davids, who pointed out how they have changed the sociology of child care.
These care givers, ranging from those at children’s homes, at child and youth care centres and places of safety, provide competent and professional care to at-risk children and youth through the Isibindi programme.
South Africa’s Isibindi model was established in 2001 through the support of the Department of Social Development (DSD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), the United States Agency for International Development (US Aid), the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Pepfar) and the NACCW, which was formed in response to the impact of the HIV pandemic on children.
The programme is supporting these vulnerable children through the care givers who help to instil structure at their homes or place of residence, negotiate with teachers, aid registration for government grants, and teach life skills.
Isibindi is being implemented in more than 300 communities countrywide.
A total of 15 of these projects are run in the Northern Cape.
Six of the projects are based in Kimberley, reportedly serving over 13 000 of the province’s vulnerable children.
According to a NACCW statement, nearly 300 Isibindi child and youth care workers have undergone training in the province.
It is stated that this figure has risen nationally to more than 6 000.
This was done after the commitment by the DSD to train 10 000 Isibindi care givers.
The former chief director of developmental social welfare of the Department of Social Development, Ashley Theron, said the divided pass between social workers and care givers needs to be stopped.
Theron highlighted the lack of transformation in this field.
According to Theron, the child and youth care workers are seen as glorified nannies.
A proposal for synergy was also emphasised by members of the social service profession.
It is said that the social workers and the care givers do not need to compete for space in an effort to make an impact in the lives of children and the communities they work in.
Lan Balamba, the acting registrar of the Council for Social Service professions, said dialogues need to be continued.
This must be done in an effort to bring all sectors in the field together in the best interest of the child.
She urged the child and youth care workers to never feel inferior especially based on their qualifications.
“You might not be a qualified social worker or not have the higher qualifications.
“But the impact of what you are doing is greater than anything that might be put on paper.”
Mahish Bitish, a representative from Lebanon in the Middle East, applauded the hard work and efforts put into the South African programmes.
He expressed his wish for continuous strategies and skills to be shared among the two countries.