Child care forums meet the needs of vulnerable children in South Africa
Durban – Child Care Forums provide much-needed services, but their role and relationships with other service providers need to be clarified, said Vuyiswa Mathambo of the HSRC here at the 4th SA AIDS Conference. Child Care Forums are locally-based groups caring for vulnerable children within their communities.
Mathambo presented a study of 400 of such Child Care Forums (CCFs), identified through provincial departments of social development, national and provincial nongovernmental organisations and community-based organisations. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 400 managers, 455 staff and volunteers, and 309 child beneficiaries. Each site was mapped using geographic positioning system receivers. Information collected has been used to compile a database of CCFs.
She said the purpose of the study was to determine how many CCFs there were across the country, where were they located geographically, what services they provided, which organisations and service providers they worked closely with, how they were funded, and to make recommendations on how they could be strengthened.
Most CCFs visited and mapped were in KwaZulu Natal (99), followed by Limpopo (76), Free State (75) and Gauteng (63). The five remaining provinces had a lower number of CCFs identified, visited and mapped. CCFs were conceptualised as an instrument for linking vulnerable children and their families to various services, but the study found that most CCFs were facilitating and providing services, including the following:
CCFs were places where children could be linked to essential services and/or where they could get something to eat, be assisted with their school work and hang out after school. Children and adults also said that CCFs protected children from danger – they were safe places for children.
Reach of services
Mahlambo said almost all CCFs (394/400) were targeting orphaned children, each reaching between 20 – 300 children in their community. When asked which children they targeted as beneficiaries, almost all said they targeted orphaned children, followed by other categories of vulnerable children such as children living in poor households, children living with ill adults, abused children and children living in households with children only.
When asked whether CCFs were meeting the needs of children, almost two-thirds of managers (64%) believed that they were meeting the needs of vulnerable children but felt they could be doing more with additional funding. In addition, a very high proportion of child beneficiaries (95.1%) said they were happy with the services they were receiving from CCFs.
“The study showed that CCFs provided much-needed services to vulnerable children and their families, particularly where other services were lacking. However, their role and relationship with other service providers needed to be clarified in order to minimise service duplication,” Mahlambo emphasized.
Funding, coordination and reporting framework is needed as most CCFs did not know what funding was available, and how to access available funding. Also, CCFs reported directly to their funders but there was limited communication across funders regarding which CCFs they were funding and what CCFs was doing what is which communities. “The role of intermediary organisations also needed urgent attention because some CCFs were being short-changed by intermediary organisations,” Mahlambo said.
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More about the HSRC’s Child, Youth, Family and Social Development (CYFSD) research programme.