Friday, 23 June 2017


The necessity of security and stability in family life

Written by: Yolandi Singleton (Supervisor – Assessments and Therapy Unit)

June 2017

 

Every house or building has a foundation. The foundation anchors the home to the ground and carries the weight of the home. If the foundation is not solid, the home is at risk. Therefore it is essential to ensure that the foundation, which is the starting point of the house, is trustworthy so that the house can be stable. I would like to link the foundation and home scenario with that of family life.

Yes, we are all very different from one another and yes, we all have different qualities and needs that makes us unique. What I definitely know is that everyone has three things in common and that is that we all have thoughts, feelings and choices. Except for choosing our families. They are in our lives for a reason. To shape us and sometimes confront us with things we never even thought of.

Some people are fortunate to have loving and supporting family members even though that family will also go through trials and tribulations. They are able to stand up, support each other and move forward. Unfortunately there are also people whose families regularly lets them down, causing those people to never experience a sense of belonging. In other words, not having a solid foundation to take on the challenging life out there.

When we conduct assessments with the children it is really noticeable that children project a strong need for healthy and positive family functioning. During the assessments we show them pictures that revolves around family happenings and provide them with the opportunity to respond and share their stories, as it happens in their lives. Children can only share what they have been exposed to. We are sometimes saddened to see children not having an idea what to say about their families as there is no proper interaction. Or they share information that indicates a lack of care and support within the families they grow up. These children suffer the emotionally and struggle to find their place in their family and in the world. They do not know who they can trust and where they belong due to the animosity between their family members. Their houses collapse, figuratively speaking due to an unstable foundation. This causes children to struggle to concentrate at school, some even practice inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour. This happens on an unconscious level and they are actually communicating to the world that they are not okay.

Mia Kellmer Pringle (2006) talks about the emotional needs of children in her books. One of the emotional needs she points out is the need for children to experience security. She explains it by mentioning that children experience security when their parents are happily married or in a loving and stable relationship. It gives them a sense of normality and builds their foundation to have a positive outlook on life. It build positive perceptions on intimate relationships as well as relationships with other people.

Unfortunately as we all know, some marriages and relationships do not work out. The best thing to be done then is to put a plan together (through a mediation process and parenting agreement – as now offered by Child Welfare Tshwane) that suits all parties and creates minimum disruption for the children. We have to face that when parents’ relationships don’t work out, the ideal dream for their children has come to an end. Therefore it is important to put effort in to make the process as less traumatising for the children.

The role of the father in a house is to bring strength and provide direction to the family and lead by example. Their presence is much more important than we realise. Children need them. They have to teach their boy children to take charge and respect other people and show their daughters how they deserve to be treated by men or any individual they come across.

In this time with Father’s day at the front of our door step, we honour the fathers that support and act as the pillar of their families. We thank them for leading the way and show their families how much they care.

We also think about those families who mourn the loss of a beloved. We witness the impact it has on children when we do bereavement therapy groups with them. Let us remember that families can make or break us. If we can encourage one another to play a positive role in their families where the members of the family can feel safe and experience stability, I am sure that the foundation of that “house” (family) is strong enough to take on the world and its challenges out there.

Hope all fathers had a happy Father’s Day!!

 

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Mother and child bond


Verwante prent

The mother-child bond – care and nurture
Compiled by Yolandi Singleton: Supervisor – Assessments and Therapy Unit
May 2017

 

During this month (May), we celebrated and saluted the mothers of South Africa who manage to find their way to be a mother, despite the realities of poverty, unemployment, traffic, work stress, challenging intimate relationships and the rush to run a household, amongst many other “monsters” in their lives.

We see how difficult it is for mothers today to give their full attention to providing care and to nurture their children. These difficulties often include their inability to bond with their children. Mothers find it difficult to bond, often due to their own mothers being emotionally and physically unavailable to them during their childhood.

In South Africa we see how communities suffer due to the absence of strong male figures in families and the mothers then need to play both roles, leaving them distressed to fulfil the needs of their children.

In order to comprehend a child’s natural need to be cared and nurtured for by his mother, it is important to understand the biology behind it. When a mother is, pregnant there is, a mucous tissue called Wharton’s jelly within the umbilical cord that has a protective function for the foetus. Additionally, inside the womb there is a liquid called the amniotic sac that also has the function to protect the foetus. In other words, a child default need to be protected, cared for and nurtured develops due to the nature of the mother’s body providing them with that need even before birth.  After birth, it is essential that a mother shows affection to her baby, by holding the baby 15cm away from her face. Remember, a baby’s sight is limited. When a mother regularly touches her baby it creates a warm and secure relationship, setting the necessary foundation for the baby to grow as a confident young child and adult.

Now you may ask, how do I care and nurture my child? The answer is easy and yet quite challenging, but remains a conscious choice. Every child has the need to feel loved which means that a parent should spend time with them on their developmental level. By doing that, they will feel cared for. They also have the need to feel acknowledged by complimenting them and acknowledging attempts made by them. Show them you believe in them and get rid of the criticism. Show interest in the things they are interested in by being in line with the latest trends. Just imagine that you come home, telling your 13 year old child about a cool new app that might interest them. Really listen to them when they tell you something that is important to them. If you do not listen, they will lose interest in telling you things when they grow older. If they feel sad about something, just sit with them and resist the temptation to always be ready with advice. Maybe they just need your presence and time, so put that cell phone and tablet away. Set realistic boundaries for them. They will not understand the essence of it now, but when they grow older they will. Remember, we are not raising children, but future adults.

We have seen mothers through our Mama Zama programme engaging with their children through play and touch, leaving the child feel cared and nurtured for. Child Welfare Tshwane’s Family Preservation Programme aims to restore the bond between mothers and small children in order to build stronger adults and communities in the future.

Let us keep on investing time in our children’s lives by caring for them so that one day when they also become parents, they will be empowered to instil the same principles onto their own children. The foundation is in fact the most important segment in a child’s life. If we can achieve that, I believe that South Africa can become a country where there is peace and harmony.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Children spell love TIME


Time, the most precious gift

Written by: Yolandi Singleton (Supervisor: Assessments and Therapy Unit)

Dated: 13 April 2017

 

We often think and say that time is our biggest enemy. It must be that life has become so busy with lots of happenings around us that we then feel bombarded with many things on our plates.

Technology and the development thereof also plays a huge role in this as people are regularly busy to make sure they keep up with the latest trends to feel that they are not missing out on the world and what it has to offer.

Time is continuously reminding us of things that happened in the past, the present and what might happen in the future. We know that the past is not something we can reverse, even though we often want to. The future is out of our hands now, but what we do in the here and now will ultimately impact the future. Therefore it is important to focus on the here and now.

When we conduct therapy with traumatised children our strategy is to take them into a time of fantasy while exploring their life events and feelings and simultaneously keep them in the here and now. We attempt to offer them an opportunity and some time to find healing within themselves, but we also know they cannot achieve this healing process without the love and support from their caregivers and overall support system.

We often cry inside when we assess children, discovering that they feel lonely due to the adults in their lives not making time to spend quality time with them. Mia Kellmer Pringle (2013) explains in her book “The needs of children”, the 5 emotional needs of children which is relevant in all contexts when working and living with children. This author unpacks, amongst other needs, the need for love (we will discuss the other emotional needs in the blogs to come). It is a need that is met by infants from birth onwards and is something they depend on, on a daily basis from their parents. When this need is not met, children seek alternative ways to receive love, which could lead to unwanted situations.

When we say that a child is in need of love, it means that parents should spend quality time with their children in their life world. As adults we assume that children will enjoy certain activities we prepared for them and when they do not engage we think they are ungrateful. No, that is not the case, we need to think differently about this. Everyone has different interests and activities they experience as fun and enjoyable. Parents can therefore ask their children what they would like to do that is fun for them. That is really when children experience that their parents spend quality time with them in their world. When we conduct assessments with children we often find children saying that their parents do not play anything with them. However when we seek information from the parents afterwards, the parents are surprised by this statement, saying that they often do a specific activity together. When we then ask the parents who initiated the activity, the parents are eager to say it was them. We then encourage them to rather ask the child what they would like to do for fun and explain that children perceive this as love.

Let us embrace this special time around Easter and the long weekends to come to spend quality time with our children, who loves us unconditionally. Let us switch off our phones and other technology devices that keeps us so busy and steal the joy we could experience with the innocent gestures and laughter from our children.

Monday, 27 March 2017


Why am I a social worker?

By Suzanne Bezuidenhout: Social worker – Assessments and Therapy Unit at Child Welfare Tshwane

I am often asked why I chose to become a social worker.  Since I was a little girl I loved helping people. I have always enjoyed working with children and helping them and, for this reason, I believe that choosing this career I answer to my calling.

People are often unaware of the difficult and life-changing decisions social workers have to face on a daily basis. Social workers have to decide whether a child is safe in his current circumstances or whether that child needs to be removed from the circumstances.  Then the social workers are tasked with finding appropriate alternative care for that child.

Many people see social workers in a negative light, due to the difficult and somewhat controversial decisions they have to make in some cases. However, being a social worker means that one should accept that not all people welcome the assistance of a social worker. Being a social worker means that you get to meet the most vulnerable people. Even in difficult circumstance you build a meaningful connection with individuals that are often resilient and fascinating – you also learn from your beneficiaries.

Social workers choose to work within the human service field because they have a passion for working with those who are disempowered by their circumstances. Many social workers become social workers because of experiences in their own lives. This can contribute significantly to their success as they know and understand the circumstances that the beneficiaries often experience.

When we share the joy that change has brought to someone’s live or we guide a child towards unlocking his or her potential we know that we are indeed making a difference.  And isn’t that just what we all want from life?

This month I salute my colleagues in the profession who often put other’s needs above their own and celebrated celebrate Social worker’s day on 21 March.  I am proud to be a social worker!  

 

Friday, 24 February 2017


ITS CHILD'S PLAY

Literature points out that play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them (Ness & Farenga, 2007). 

More often than other play events between children and their parents are controlled and planned with the specific intention to reach a specific outcome by the parent. Parents will for example initiate a game where there are specific rules in order to teach the child how to develop socially acceptable behaviour. As parents control and plan play, it often prevents children from spontaneously engaging in free play.

It is important for children to just play and develop their own skills as this make them feel powerful and enhances their self-esteem. Play can also be viewed as the process whereby children get to know themselves and reach an equilibrium within themselves. Parent-child play covers a reward system and this reward can involve the child receiving affection, acknowledgement or approval from the parent.

As the child and parent play together the child experiences fun and pleasure when engaging with someone they love. When a parent engages with a child through a game which the child chose, the child experience it has feeling loved by the parent as the child feels the parent understand his/her needs. The continuation of parent-child play can then progress into a secure attachment between the child and parent.

Let us therefore satisfy our children through their way of communication which is play and let us encourage all parents to spend quality time with their children in their world. That way, children will feel loved and understood and grow up to be confident adults whose needs were satisfied during their foundation years.

Monday, 20 June 2016


When there is a calling, the way will follow

“I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.” – Oprah Winfrey

When we choose our careers we often consider the future, the remuneration and the opportunities.  But sometimes we just listen to the calling and we follow a path that leads us to a position where we serve with love and build other people’s lives rather than focus on building big careers.  A dynamic group of ladies manage operations at Child Welfare Tshwane and they embody the phrase, “Charity begins at home, but should not end at home”.  They do their work with compassion and love to ensure that the lives of children in Tshwane improve.

Child Welfare Tshwane (CWT) was established in 1918 to care for vulnerable and orphaned children after the war and is still doing amazing work in the City of Tshwane.  Apart from the 24-hour care facility, the Bramley Child & Youth Care Centre, in Groenkloof, the Organisation also runs service points in Mamelodi, Eersterust, Sunnyside, Elandspoort, Atteridgeville and Olievenhoutbosch.   CWT launched an ECD (early childhood development) program in Sunnyside in April 2015 and have already seen excellent results with the children and families who are part of this program.

At the helm of the Organisation is Linda Nell (60) as Director.  After a positive experience with social work at a young age, she decided that this was the career for her. “I also enjoy working with people, I find them very interesting,” says Linda.  She enjoys her work, especially to motivate and inspire people.  Her personal goals are to always be of value and to be resilient in mind, body and spirit.  To achieve this, she enjoys reading, exercising and cooking.  The one thing she would want to change about the welfare situation in South Africa is the funding as it remains a constant challenge to meet the financial needs related to caring for vulnerable children.   Linda finds motivation from her favourite quote by Sandra van der Merwe “Those who encouraged me to play and cheered me when I did well”.

Winnie Moshupye (49) is Manager: Social Work at Child Welfare.  Her role comprises of overseeing the risk assessment, family preservation and legal protection services are fulfilled to the best standard and quality. Winnie became a social worker because she has a passion for helping people, wants to relief poverty and to help people feel empowered. “The most rewarding part of my work is to see the improvement in the individual development plan of a previously abused child”, says Winnie.  She dreams of one day running a Centre for the aged in Lephalale as she would like to also see the elderly cared for.  Winnie stays healthy by going to gym, running and cycling and enjoys socializing with friends and family.  Her vision for welfare in South Africa is that the system will strive to encourage independency rather than fostering a culture of dependency on the social support systems.  It is not wonder that her favourite saying is “become independent rather than dependent”.

 Babies are often abandoned or made available for adoption and this special program is run by Nina de Caires (48).  Nina always liked all different people and was originally caught by the “social” term of social work and expected something totally different – today, however, she knows that this was her calling.  She is currently Supervisor: Adoption Services and enjoys the diversity of her work.  “Each case is different and you meet many amazing people,” says Nina.  It is her goal to make a difference in the lives of each individual and family she meets and she enjoys the experience of seeing how people’s lives change after an adoption.  She walks a path with the families and has many positive stories to share after many years in different positions with Child Welfare Tshwane.  Nina enjoys walking for fun and to stay healthy.  In her opinion the salaries of social workers should be looked at as many social workers work long hours and also do such important work.  Despite this, her favourite quote comes from Mother Theresa “Never worry about numbers.  Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest to you”.

Mary-Jane Motshwane (53) is Supervisor of the Foster Care supervision program, the program supervises children and their families who have been placed in alternative care via a court order by the children’s court. This is to prevent foster children who are at risk not to be abuse or neglected and make sure they are well-cared.  Mary-Jane became a social worker to make a difference in her community, and also assist the less privileged and vulnerable be able to help themselves and not be dependent. Mary-Jane support and guide supervisee in her Program to meet their goals.  She always strives to be a better person and her dream is to see people happy and free from suffering.  To meet the demands of her position she enjoys a bit of gardening to stay healthy.  “I do not go to the gym, but rather do house work – that way my house is in order and clean and I do not feel as if I have wasted time to go out for exercise”, says Mary-Jane.  If she could change the welfare situation in South Africa she would invest in skills development so that, instead of hand-outs, people will rather be trained and able to also give back to the community.  “We need to cultivate pride”, says Mary-Jane when she also explains how the current system encourages dependency.  Mary-Jane believes we should continue dreaming but also take each day as it comes.

Dineo Daly (28 for the past 12 years) is Supervisor: Risk Assessment.   “I relate well to people”, says Dineo when asked why she is a social worker.  “People find me easy to talk to and that helps in our environment”, she continues.  She enjoys knowing that her work has made a difference, even if only in one child’s life.  Dineo dream of the day when she can spend quality time with her family.  “I married for love, because if I had married for money I would have been a stay-at-home mom” says Dineo, whose family is very important to her.  Dineo hopes that someday people will realise their own potential and she believes that the welfare system should help them do that. She likes to be fit and healthy and walks 5km each Saturday.  Dineo finds her spiritual strength in John 1, chapter 4:4: “Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world”.

Yolandi Singleton (30) decided to be a social worker because she has a lot to give and enjoys promoting the self-esteem of children. She is currently heading up the Assessment and Therapy unit at CWT.  The interaction with children is the best part of her day and she feels so strongly about domestic violence that she hopes to one day be part of the work group to re-write the Act.  She wants to help shape the Act to ensure that the victims are protected and get more help.  To stay fit and healthy she enjoys Hip-Hop and walking and she tries to always eat healthy.  Yolandi says one thing she would change about the welfare system will be to get social workers to take more responsibility for cases and not just step away when it seems impossible.  She also believes “do unto others as you would have them do to you”.

Front, from left to right: Winnie Moshupje; Nina de Caires
Back, left to right: Yolandi Singleton, Mary-Jane Motshweni, Helena Willers, Dineo Daly & Linda Nell.
 
Helena Willers (60) is Manager of Bramley Child & Youth Care Centre.  She chose to be a social worker because she wanted to improve people’s quality of life.   It is rewarding for her to see the progress and change in a child’s life during the time the child spends with Bramley.  Bramley currently provides 24-hour care to 45 children between the ages of 6 and 19.  Helena stays fit by climbing stairs at home and she dreams of travelling more in her life.  If she could change one thing about the welfare situation she would want to see a change in the image of the profession and also more people caring and showing empathy for others.    Her favourite saying is something the children can also benefit from “In this world you can be anything you want to be, but it is important to first be yourself”.

The group dynamics will change when a male colleague will join as Supervisor: ECD and Drop-In Centre program, but for now this group of ladies work diligently and rescue children from potentially harmful conditions and to ensure that they are safe and healthy and that they get the support needed to ensure that each child reaches his or her full potential.  No one can change a bad beginning but we can work towards creating a better future and these ladies are definitely working hard at creating better futures!

Friday, 27 May 2016

Warning signs for sexual abuse


Red flags for possible sexual abuse

Written by: Yolandi Singleton, Supervisor: Assessment & Therapy Unit

 



 

The court case currently in the news regarding alleged sexual abuse and neglect of children brings this matter to the fore again. Sexual abuse is probably the type of abuse that upsets the society the most. As adults we are extremely aware that it causes physical, psychological, social and emotional damage to a child when being sexually abused - not to mention the other challenges the same child might be facing at the same time.

Children mostly display problematic behaviour to show the world what they are experiencing, without verbally expressing it. When it comes to sexual abuse, children will often subtly make disclosures in order to test the reaction of the receiver. All too often children do not want to disclose abuse as they are afraid they will not be believed or that the receiver will be angry or think that the child was in some way responsible for the abuse.

Many times we find that parents who battle their own unresolved issues due to childhood sexual abuse often project their hurt and pain onto their children as a way to cope with their own trauma or to gain control over their personal experience. Due to their own trauma they tend to place their child in the victim seat when any possible threatening situation arises, resulting in the sexual abuse of the child.

The signs and symptoms of children who have been sexually, emotionally or physically abused are more or less the same. It is therefore challenging to determine what type of abuse the child was exposed to by merely looking at behaviour. The following warning signs can however be reasons for concern when considering the possibility of sexual abuse:

• Excessive masturbation, still continuing even after boundaries were set to the child;

• When a child wants to sexually engage with another child by attempting to enforce penetration of the genitals or any form of object;

• Encopresis (soiling in pants) or enuresis (bedwetting);

• When a child makes a disclosure and thereafter recant (withdraw their statement);

• Expressing strange and overly anxious comments about a specific person;

• Infection in the genitals (consider that some genital infections might be due to medical reasons);

• Age inappropriate sexual behaviour (the child displays sexual behaviour when not supposing to have such knowledge);

• If a child displays inappropriate sexual behaviour, explore it in a non-leading way such as: “I am wondering where you learned to do… or tell me more…”;

• When the sexual behaviour put the child or someone else in a position to get hurt:

• When the child’s main focus during play is to engage on a sexual level; or

• Sudden change in behaviour such as sleeping and eating patterns (consider that these symptoms are also present when children have been physically or emotionally abused).

What to do when a child made a sexual abuse disclosure

• Children do not verbally communicate like adults and find it difficult to express the experience. It is important to stay calm and find help. Do not overreact. It causes more harm.

• Do not interrogate the child.

• Do not say anything negative about the alleged abuser (this will scare the child and cause possible withdraw. Remember, perpetrators are threatening and manipulative).

• Do not make empty promises, such as “you will never see that person again”.

•If you are not trained to explore abuse by means of forensic interviewing, limit your questions regarding the abuse and the alleged perpetrator. Avoid questions that leads the child to a specific answer you want. Resist the temptation to gather all the information. Leave it to the professionals to explore properly.

• Let the child know that you believe him/her and that you are proud of them for telling you something you know must hurt a lot. Assure the child that you do not blame them and are not angry and that it is not their fault.

Remember that for a child to disclose sexual abuse is a very brave step, but a difficult step at the same time. Children must be free to experience life in a non-threatening way. At times they can engage in innocent sexual play without having the intention to receive sexual gratification, but merely to explore body parts, which is an interesting topic for youngsters at times. Treat them gently and assure them of your support and understanding.

If you suspect sexual or other abuse, please contact us on 012-4609236.

Child Welfare Tshwane – serving the community of Tshwane with pride since 1918.