Tuesday, 20 February 2018


By Caren Malherbe, Social Worker

Despite the sophisticated legal framework in South Africa there is still a clear majority of children who frequently experience some form of violence from a very early age. Unfortunately, South Africa lacks both national empirical data on the exact magnitude of the problem, and a limited research base on the causes and effects of violence against children in the local context. The limited evidence restricts an understanding of the problem, the effective design and targeting of services, as well as an ability to use evidence-based strategies for prevention.  This essay reviews the latest research to address the following critical questions: • How is violence against children best defined? • What is known about the extent of violence against children in South Africa? • What are the patterns of violence against children across the life course? • What are the immediate and long-term effects of violence against children? • What are the risk and protective factors? • What are the recommendations?

It is not possible to write about violence against children without reflecting on South Africa’s high levels of violence and crime. The underlying causes of violence are complex. It is thought to be rooted in the colonial past and the legacy of apartheid that normalised and created widespread social acceptance of violence.3 Widespread poverty, inequality and high levels of unemployment combined with a weak culture of law enforcement, rapid urbanisation, inadequate housing and poor education outcomes all contribute to social dynamics that fuel violence.4   In addition, apartheid has had a profound effect on family life. The migrant labour system created an environment where large numbers of fathers were largely absent in the lives of their children.5 Racial oppression and the grossly unequal pow (Mathews & Benvenuti, 2014:26)

How is violence against children best defined? Violence against children is a multi-faceted and complex problem. This has resulted in multiple definitions which make it particularly challenging to monitor the incidence of violence, analyse trends and guide actions for prevention and response. The World Report on Violence and Health11 defines violence “as the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, that results or is likely to result in injury, death, psychological harm, mal-development or deprivation”. The UNCRC recognises the complexities of violence pow (Mathews & Benvenuti, 2014:26)
The World Health Organisation extends this definition to include “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against a child, by an individual or group, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity”.13 The above definitions outline the core components of violence against children and highlight how violence extends beyond physical injuries to include emotional and psychological dimensions, and can occur across a range of settings and relationships. Violence against children can spread from the home to the community and vice versa. For the child this experience is multi-layered and interrelated. For example: a child witnesses his mother being abused by her partner. He is also exposed to harsh parenting, with corporal punishment used as a means of discipline. He seeks affirmation outside (Mathews & Benvenuti, 2014:26)
Violence against children has long-term consequences which can be avoided by investing in prevention initiatives.
With South Africa about to embark on the 16 Days of Activism on No Violence against Women and Children, the South African Child Gauge 2014is released today to contribute to this debate by providing evidence of successful violence prevention initiatives. Published by the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town (UCT), the ninth issue of this annual review of the situation of South Africa’s children was produced in partnership with UNICEF, the Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development (PSPPD) in The Presidency; World Vision South Africa; the FNB Fund; and UCT’s Safety and Violence Initiative.
Annually two huge awareness campaigns are launched to raise public awareness of child abuse and family violence.
Child Protection week was initiated to raise awareness about the care and protection of children
The World Health Organisation pronounces child maltreatment as a global problem with serious lifelong consequences. Their studies reveal that a quarter of all adults have been physically abused as children, 1 in 5 woman and 1 in 13 men have been sexually abused as children. Countless children are subjected to emotional abuse and neglect (World Health Centre: Child Maltreatment. Factsheet 2014:1-2).
Given the violence in the South African society, it is probable to believe that children growing up in violent households will return to violence when a situation is unbearable. Roufougar (2007:122) points out that a child will be more likely to commit murder if he grew up in violent surroundings.
The Institute for Security Studies highlighted the high incidence of violent crime in their comments on the 2013/2014 Crime statistics. They also expressed concern about the normalisation of violence in homes, neighbourhoods and schools. They emphasised the fact that most murders take place between people who know each other (ISS Crime Hub: Factsheet 2014:7). 
1. Violence in South Africa:
South Africa is an exceptionally violent society and the incidence of crime and violence are well above world average. It is difficult to establish accurate figures reflecting the incidence of domestic violence due to the fact that there is no reliable statistics available. It is estimated that 60% of marital relationships involve abuse. The number of murders within a family which stem out of the abusive relationships is not known.
Consequently it is inevitable that many children grow up exposed to high levels of violence and abuse in their homes (Robertson & Donaldson.1997:1). The traditional view that the home is a safe haven and sanctuary is untrue given the statistics in South Africa, it is probably the place where children are most at risk for violence and abuse.
Robertson & Donaldson (1997:1) reiterate that numerous children in South African homes are exposed to high levels of violence in their homes.  They confirm that these children will be at risk of committing violent crimes. This childhood trauma will impacted on the child in later life and have a higher risk to be a perpetrator. In these circumstances children learn that violence is an acceptable way of solving problems (Robertson & Donaldson. 1997:5).
Gould (2014:1) mentioned that 827 children were murdered in South Africa during 2012/2013; it is more than two children a day. During this period another 21,575 children, were assaulted, of which half of the assaults being severe. 
In the same year 2,266 women were murdered, and 141,130 women were victims of attempted murder, assault, grievous bodily harm and common assault. A vast percentage of women and children were victims of violence.
Underwood (2013:2) indicated that intrafamilial murders in Britain accounted for 50% of all homicides.
The consequences of violence in the family system where especially children are witnesses of violence in their communities and households have serious consequences on the health system and the ability to raise a next generation of safe and emotionally healthy children.
The National Youth Victimisation Study conducted by The Centre of Justice and Crime Prevention, Cape Town (2005) indicated that South African Youth experience significant violence in their homes, as victims as well as witnesses of violence. These violent disputes often involve the use of a weapon (Pelser.2008:5-6).
Domestic abuse in South Africa is often underestimated in South Africa and it can be argued that South Africa is a hostile environment for children (Idemudia & Makhubela.2011:3447).
It appears as if violence in families are a global occurrence; in a special report of the Department of Justice in the United States which were conducted during 1993 and 2010 it was estimated that 2.8 million children experienced violent crimes in their households  (Truman & Smith.2012:1).
Social acceptance or tolerance of various forms of violence, such as intimate partner violence and corporal punishment is a key factor in the continuation of violence   (Mathews. 2014:54).
Mouzos & Rushforth (2003:1) echoed the view that the family environment can be deadly. In Australia two out of five homicides occur between family members.
These high levels of violence in households in South Africa can affect children and lead to situations in their home environment where they are not able to deal with their emotions and stress levels.
Families are very often idealised and statistics on family violence are underestimated. Ewing (1997) describe the family as undeniably the most violent social group and the home the most violent social setting.

Violence in the family has significant consequences for children and their actions later on in life.
Traumatic stress caused by child neglect and/or abuse compromises homeostasis and leads to an assemblage of long term biological changes involving the nervous and endocrine systems. These changes can affect physiological, emotional, cognitive, and social functioning. These deviations can comprise the ability to regulate, affect, relate to other people, and develop empathy. When confronted with stressful situations (Heide & Solomon.2006:222).  

Family interactions comprise the single greatest determinant of an individual’s level of violence outside the home. Children who are abused, or who witness violence, are far more likely to engage in violence themselves, both as children and when they are adults.
Children living in unbearable circumstances are aware that violence can take place at any given moment. Their home and family cease to be a safe place when interparental violence strikes (Goldblatt. 2003:539).

Violence and emotional assaults on children often attack the norms, trust and certainty of family relationships. There are no sense of family relationships and intimacy, instead the child experience emotional alienation, this alienation can increase with repeated occurrence of violence (Goldblatt. 2003:535).

 Explanation of violence in Families:

Mathews & Benvuti (2014:26) emphasise the high levels of violence and crime against children in South Africa. They reiterate that the underlying causes of violence are complex and illuminate South Africa’s colonial past and the legacy of apartheid that normalised and created widespread social acceptance of violence in the country.  They also accentuate widespread poverty, inequality and high levels of unemployment combined with a weak culture of law enforcement, rapid urbanisation, inadequate housing and poor education as outcomes contributing to social dynamics that fuel violence.
Violence against children is a multi-faceted and without a single explanation to explain why some children experience violence, but it can best be understood as the complex interaction of various factors. (Mathews & Benvuti: 2014:26).

Strain and pressure of daily life is part of every family; families resolve strain differently and often in inappropriate ways. The best parents and most loving couples display unfitting behaviour. They lose their tempers, say intentionally hurtful things to one another, raise their voices when arguing, and sometimes even lash out physically. In many cases aggression is seen as normal. This behaviour is common and culturally approved and seen as part of family life. (Chapter 1)

Families often experience stress because of various factors in their lives, such as work, their financial situation as well as relationships in the family. In violent families there are often chronic, long-lasting stress which influences the behaviour and attitudes of family members.

Burgess & Draper (1989:59) indicate that marital violence, unemployment, financial pressures, anxiety and alcohol abuse can be indicators for family violence.

According to Rae-Grant et al. (1999) risk factors for family violence include the easy availability of weapons, poverty, family conflict and violent adults who had been violent as children. Similarly, based on the available literature on family homicide.

Ewing (1997) recognised five causal factors related to interfamilial homicide: domestic violence, overwhelming social stress, mental illness, alcohol abuse and the availability of firearms.

De Benedictus, T., Jaffe, J., & Segal J (2015:1) emphasise that violence may also be more prevalent amongst families who are experiencing: stress and economic hardship, such as prolonged unemployment.

2.1 Family Structure:

Family structures changed dramatically over the last decades. Carlson, M & Corcoran, M.E (2001:779) raised concern about the consequences about the changes in family structures on children’s development and wellbeing. The change in marriage, divorce and fertility since the 1960’s led to a striking increase in the number of families headed by a single parent. They estimated that half of children born in the 1980s, will spend their lives in a single-parent family.
In South Africa family structures have changed and fragmented due to migrant labour and the impact of HIV/AIDS, This resulted in large numbers of children (39%) being raised in female-headed households or with no parents (23%). Exposure to gang violence, particularly in the Western Cape, where the illegal drug and alcohol economy has flourished and systematically increased the power of gangs has also impact greatly on family structures conflict (Mathews & Benvuti. 2014:32).
Domestic violence also has a significantly negative impact on children’s long-term mental health and can perpetuate the use of violence to resolve conflict (Mathews & Benvuti. 2014:32). 
Families are structured according to social believes and values. This can vary from family to family, social standing as well as different cultures. Within the South African context differentiation must be made between rural and urban families, as well as the social and financial standing of families.

Henslin (2013:2) emphasise the variations of family life among white, African American, Latino, Asian American, and Native American families, the primary differences in families result from cultural differences and social class.

The decline of the traditional family and the changing classifications of families are evident in the significant increase in one-parent, childless, blended, gay and lesbian families. The percentage of U.S. children living with two parents has dropped from 85 percent in 1970 to 70 percent in 2010. Blended families, families that have members who were previously parts of other families, are also on the rise. Gay unions are becoming more public (Henslin.2013:2).

2.2 Cultural factors:

In a multi-faceted country such as South Africa, cultural norms vary significantly from
rural to urban areas as well as the various cultural groups in South Africa.

Cultural values are also recurrently mentioned as a cause of interpersonal violence among poor inner-city African Americans (Lee. 2011:321).

The background of violent crime are the same for black and white people. The treacherous structural deprivation experienced by the urban black population has resulted in temporary traditional revisions to these structural disorders which include the use of violence. Young men use violence as a means to achieve status and respect in their communities. This will decline when socio-economic conditions change (Lee.2011:322).

Cultures and specific structures in families can be important to preface violence. In most families there are frequently levels of authority amongst family members. The most common structure is the one where a father/husband is the authoritarian figure in the house. The spouse often must be subsidiary to their husbands and children’s needs. In some cultures women can often not differ from their husbands.

Little though is given to the long term or immediate effect of violence against children in the African culture, as well as the consequences thereof on the behaviour of children. There is a lack of understanding how an adult’s behaviour could impact on children, and how to deal with these children in a professional way.  Violent behaviour are tolerated in communities and this lead to a malicious circle of violence between adolescents (Idemudia & Makhubela.2011:3457). 
2.3 Family norms:

Wekinson (1995: 6) describes a culture of violence in a family setting where the child has observed violent behaviour as a common occurrence in their family relationships. Frequently their family backgrounds were characterised by a lack of parental love and involved harsh discipline. Research evidence from the United States of America has suggested that children who killed were likely to have had family backgrounds which were characterised by a lack of parental love, involved harsh discipline and which provided inadequate emotional and economic security and stability for the child.

Corporal punishment is widespread in South African homes as a method of punishment despite the fact that it is banned in public spheres. 58% of parents report smacking their children at some point and 33% report using a belt or object to punish their children. Frequent and harsh corporal punishment is emotionally damaging and associated with the development of aggressive behaviour in the long term. Any form of beating teaches the wrong lessons about how to resolve differences, which is not desirable in an already violent society (Mathews & Benvenuti.2014:28).

2.4 Social tolerance of violence and acceptance of violence:

South Africa’s violent past has resulted in a widespread tolerance of violence which enables perpetrators to act with liberty. This is compounded by high levels of poverty, unemployment and income inequality, as well as  patriarchal notions of masculinity that support the use of violence and risk-taking – all which contribute to the extraordinary high levels of violence in South Africa (Mastoera & Mathews 2014: 80).

Craig A. Anderson, C.A, Berkowitz,L, Donnerstein,L, Huesmann,L.R. Johnson,J.D,
Linz, D, Malamuth, N.M., Wartella, E (2003:105) confirms the existing research that divulges the exposure to violent media plays an important underlying role in violence in modern society. Although it is estimated that the effect of media violence are insignificant to modest people should not be misled to think that the overall impact
media violence on aggressive and violent behaviour is trivial. Youth are exposed to many hours of media violence; even a small effect can have extremely large consequences.
A strong predictor of domestic violence in adulthood is domestic violence in the household in which a person was raised. A child’s exposure to their father’s abuse of their mother is the strongest risk factor for transmitting domestic violence from one generation to the next. This cycle of domestic violence is difficult to break because parents have presented violence as the norm. Individuals living with domestic violence in their households have learned that violence and ill-treatment are outlet for anger (De Benedictis et al.2015:1).
Family members often resorts to physical violence because they believe they can solve problems with violence, they can effectively exerted control and power over others and they can get away with their behaviour (De Benedictis et al.2015:1)
Violence between parents in the home, and violence against children by parents or siblings, are factors that contribute to the normalisation of violence. CSVR 2007:170
Many people have been exposed to violence in their domestic or community environments, have been victims of violence, or themselves have been involved in perpetrating acts of violence. The overall impact of this is that people feel overwhelmed by violence, and CSVR 2007:171

2.5 Individual factors contributing to violence:

Violence in families cannot only be explained through social factors, individual factors cannot be ruled out. Mental illness or disorders such as depression, desperation, provocation by the intimate partner, jealousy and anger may be an antecedent of family violence (De Benedictis, T., Jaffe, J., & Segal J. 2015:1).

Consistently violent families have experienced chronic and long-standing stress which influences the behaviour and attitudes of family members. Violence may also be more widespread amongst families who experience the additional stresses of poverty, unemployment and inadequate housing (Henslin, 1995; Hewitt, 1997).

Monday, 28 August 2017




You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all the world’s problems at one, but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own”. Michelle Obama

August being a month for women places an emphasis on females and their capacity in the different roles that they play. Women can play the role of mother, wife, daughter, teacher, nanny, counsellor, comforter and many other roles that could be assigned to them in different occasions. Women are tasked with the challenging task of raising leaders of tomorrow.

This is not an easy task as the children of today are faced with many challenges like bullying, peer pressure, sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy etc. Women need support and knowledge of the challenges the children face in their lives, to be able to assist them as they come across them.

A woman plays an important role in laying the required foundation for a child to grow and realize the dream to become a leader. It is important for women to understand the developmental stages of children, their emotional needs and to be there for them when they need you.

A child who is caught between the separation of their biological parents will need additional assistance to get through the experience. The attachment in their environment is compromised and this child feels alone and a need to choose sides.  The child might even feel responsible for the negative occurrences within the family. The child will need a social worker to understand, support, and assist her through intervention to get through the process. This child might wish to be a doctor one day to help people, yet finding herself/himself in a situation which hampers the potential to become a doctor. As a woman and a social worker it is my duty to conduct a socio – emotional evaluation to find out about the child’s emotional well – being and give the parents feedback and refer the child for therapy so that the negative experiences could be dealt with and the child can adapt to their new life and transcend to chasing their dream of finding their place in the world and accomplishing their dream.

A woman is described as strength of life, the rock of family, the gentle heart to her children, the tears to her parents, the joy to her soul mate, the inspiration at her work, support to and love of her friends, the mystique in society, the leader of love and life but she remains human. She cannot raise a child in isolation. She has a need for assistance. A man has an exceptional role to play in accordance with women in raising a child to reach their potential in being a leader future leader. It is important that they communicate accordingly and give messages of affirmation to assist the child in reaching their potential.

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


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.