Emergency foster care facilities are essential, but often overlooked: iLIVE
The social welfare system in South Africa is under-supported.
Sadly, those who are suffering the most under its limitations are children, living in abusive and/or otherwise unsuitable circumstances. Emergency foster care can provide an instant respite and a transitional home on the road to healing and recovery.
“What most people don’t understand is that social workers are not allowed to remove a child from an unsuitable home until they have secured somewhere else for him to go,” Eleanor Bester from Heaven’s Nest Childcare and Recreation Centre explains.
“If they place a child in permanent care, they stay there until they are 18. This does not afford the parents or family members the opportunity to improve their circumstances and provide a suitable environment. The child may also not be ready to join a permanent family or care because they are in need of medical care, counselling or remedial education. Centres like ours can provide that. We are the first point of call for social workers when they need to remove a child.”
The estimated 53 non-permanent foster care centres in the Western Cape who have been denied the chance to be formally registered as accredited service providers now have the recourse to be screened and helped to comply with social development norms and standards, in order to be registered.
The young children placed at Heaven’s Nest arrive in various stages of trauma and ill health. Many of the children are HIV positive and some are far behind in their educational needs. This makes it difficult for them to be placed in families, foster cares or adoptive care. Heaven’s Nest provides medical treatment and counselling.
A small, in-house pre-school helps the children adjust to formal education. “Some children of school-going age arrive not knowing the difference between an apple and a pear, or how to hold a pencil,” Eleanor explains. “If they go to school without some remedial education they are either bullied or struggle with low morale because they don’t know the basics. We help fill in the gaps in their education, and then place them in local pre-primary or primary schools.”
The children cared for at Heaven’s Nest are usually aged between six months to eight years old. Having been removed from their homes, they can typically stay at the Centre for a period ranging from six months to one year.
During this time, their homes are re-assessed by social workers. If sufficient improvements have been made, the child may then be returned to his or her biological parents, starting with weekend visits and then permanent residence, or placed in more permanent foster care. Whilst the child stays at Heaven’s Nest, however, their needs are wholly met by the Centre.
“Children arrive here with nothing,” Bester says. “They are often dirty, hungry and scared because they don’t understand what has happened to them. They have nothing with them whatsoever. We bathe them, feed them, clothe them, take them to the doctor, and provide them with everything we would provide our children with – including love and attention, which is actually all that they want.”
The Centre’s eight carers and two administrators are currently caring for 16 children, 24 hours a day. “It’s a mammoth task and we are always in need of donations,” Eleanor says. “Items such as cleansing agents, perishable and non-perishable food, formula, nappies are always welcome. We also need track suits, long-sleeved vests and winter clothing for the children.”
Currently the Centre’s most pressing needs includes fixing leaks in the building and repairing broken tiles, whereas the on-site pre-school requires the services of retired teachers to help prepare children for formal education. In addition, monetary donations are always needed to cover the R65 000 monthly cost of running the facility.
“Although it is tough, seeing the difference that a little bit of love and care makes to a child makes it worth it,” Bester says.
If you would like to get involved with helping Heaven’s Nest; there are many ways to do so. Please call Eleanor Bester on (021) 703 9781; email her on email@example.com or see http://www.heavensnest.org.za/Support.html.