SEATTLE, Washington — South Africa has come a long way since its first democratic elections in 1994. However, with almost 50% of South Africans living on less than $2.50 a day, there is much progress to be made, which is why organizations like Home from Home are key to the country’s development.
Children in South Africa
An estimated 19,7 million children live in South Africa. According to a June 2020 study, 62,1% of those children, from ages 0 to 17, are living in multidimensional poverty. This means that more than half of South Africa’s children live in households in which they experience three or more dimensions of poverty: health, housing, nutrition, protection, education, information and water and sanitation. This is significant because deprivation in these areas can lead to mental, emotional and physical challenges in a child’s development.
There are 2.8 million children living without one or both parents in South Africa. Single-parent children had multidimensional poverty rates of 67,7% and 75% for absent mother and absent father households respectively, whereas double orphans were found to have a rate of 77,3%. Despite many of these orphaned children living in “relatively safe” households, up to 1.8 million could benefit from a scenario in which they are adopted by a household that could offer more stability, either extended family or unrelated adoptive families.
In 2018, almost 420,000 children received the foster care grant, although the number of foster children could be much higher as failing foster care orders meant that not all children in foster care received their grant. Children are either placed in foster care because they are abandoned, have no biological family to take care of them or they are removed from their families after experiencing abuse or neglect. Despite there being hundreds of thousands of children in need, only 1165 were adopted in 2016, a marked decline from previous years. With the odds stacked against children in South Africa, it is evident that more needs to be done to protect them.
Providing a Second Chance at Family
Home from Home is a South African NGO operating in 16 communities in the Western Cape. Since its formation in 2005, it has created 36 foster homes and currently cares for almost 200 children. The organization has developed what it calls a “Model of Care.” This consists of four pillars: the Education Programme, the Therapeutic Intervention Programme, the Evelyn Connolly Transitional Support Programme and the Reunification Programme. These pillars are built on its foundation of “a loving home” as Home from Home believes the pillars can only be effective if the children feel safe and cared for.
Home from Home Programs
South Africa has relatively high rates of school enrollment and attendance. In 2018, 98% of children were enrolled in a school or an educational program. This seems promising but unfortunately, South African children are still experiencing poor education standards. At least 10% of teachers are absent on any given school day and half of fifth-grade students cannot do basic math equations. The Education Programme seeks to improve this within the Home from Home collective. This pillar includes making sure the children have access to adequate schooling or an appropriate education facility and ensuring kids are given uniforms and stationery as well as transport to school. There is also a supplemental education component that includes tutoring, reading practice in English and afterschool activities and programs.
The Therapeutic Intervention seeks to alleviate some of the psychological burdens children in the foster care system face. Often children come into the organization showing evidence of neglect or abuse experienced in their previous living situation. In order to give the child their best chance at a fulfilling life, the organization provides counseling and occupational therapy for the children within its care.
As the name suggests, the Evelyn Connolly Transitional Support Programme is in place to help children transition out of foster care once they turn 18. Home from Home works with another NGO, Mamelani Projects, to prepare children to leave foster care. Together, the organizations design specific workshops appropriate for transitioning children. The organization has also developed a transitional home for those children who do not have a family to go to once they can no longer remain in foster care. Those living in this home have access to further support in the form of learnerships, mentoring and social support.
Reunification is a crucial element of the organization’s Model of Care. While the organization works to provide the best foster care possible until the age of 21, the end goal is to transition children out of foster care. If possible, the organization seeks to reunite children with their biological family, but if that family cannot be located, the organization works to find potential adoptive parents.
Hope for the Future
Children are an especially vulnerable group who are often unable to fulfill their needs without depending on others and many South African children simply do not have someone to depend on. Home from Home is attempting to fill this gap to give the country’s children their best chance at thriving.
– Emma Maytham