Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Holiday safety tips


Because holidays incorporate fun and celebration, it warrants some general safety precautions to help keep our families safe:

River and lake safety
Beware of fast flowing water, submerged objects, and deep water.
Ask someone who is familiar with the area.
Watch water levels in rivers and dams as they can rise suddenly due to water releases from reservoirs and after heavy rainfall.
Beware of slippery banks or paths near waterfalls

Fire Safety
Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
Test smoke alarms every month.
Talk with all family members about a fire escape plan and practice the plan twice a year.
If a fire occurs in your home, GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL FOR HELP.
Stay safe in the sun.
Wear protective clothing.
Make sunglasses your favourite accessory.
Limit your sun time, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. That's when the sun's rays are at their strongest.
Use sunscreen and use it right.
Say no to tanning.

Road crossing safety


Dealing with bad grades


Getting a bad grade or report card is a common part of learning, but it can be especially stressful given what’s at stake. You must get past the disappointment and plan your next move. Moving forward is necessary to do better in future:

6 Tips for children - Dealing with a Bad Grade
  • Give yourself time to process. People often tell you to dismiss bad grades and try harder next time.
  • Calculate and evaluate.
  • Keep calm and carry on.
  • Identify your weaknesses.
  • Work on your gaps.
  • Tackle it the next time.
8 Tips for parents -Talking about Bad Grades
  • Address the importance of grades early.
  • Approach the subject with concern, not anger.
  • Separate the child from the grade.
  • Ask questions.
  • Talk to the teacher.
  • Know that rewards and punishment don't work if you want your child to love learning.
  • Beware of pressure.
  • Take the simplest steps first.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Women (and children) will survive



At first I was afraid, I was petrified
Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side
But then I spent so many nights thinking how you did me wrong
And I grew strong
And I learned how to get along…..

The well-known song by Gloria Gaynor has become a theme song for many women and children who fell victim to violence at the hands of someone they love.  According to the World Bank, gender-based violence (GBV) or violence against women and girls (VAWG), is a global pandemic that affects 1 in 3 women in their lifetime.

The numbers are staggering:
  • 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.
  • Globally, 7% of women have been sexually assaulted by someone other than a partner.
  • Globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.
  • 200 million women have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting.


In a report, World Bank states that this issue is not only devastating for survivors of violence and their families, but also entails significant social and economic costs. In some countries, violence against women is estimated to cost countries up to 3.7% of their GDP – more than double what most governments spend on education.

Failure to address this issue also entails a significant cost for the future.  Numerous studies have shown that children growing up with violence are more likely to become survivors themselves or perpetrators of violence in the future.
One characteristic of gender-based violence is that it knows no social or economic boundaries and affects women and girls of all socio-economic backgrounds: this issue needs to be addressed in both developing and developed countries.
Decreasing violence against women and girls requires a community-based, multi-pronged approach, and sustained engagement with multiple stakeholders. The most effective initiatives address underlying risk factors for violence, including social norms regarding gender roles and the acceptability of violence.  During this period – the 16 days of activism against violence against women and children – we found some helpful hints on personal safety that we want to share with women and children in Tshwane.
Being safe on the street:

  • It is important to trust your intuition -- trust your feelings. If you feel that a situation is not right, move out of the situation.  Your gut feeling is seldom wrong!
  • Be aware of your surroundings. In social situations, be alert to places and situations that make you vulnerable.  Also, always let someone know when and where you will be if you are out.
  • Walk confidently and alertly.  Take care to not walk to close to any side of the sidewalk – rather stay in the middle so you have options when you have to get away!

Being safe when you are out and about:
  • Be responsible for yourself.
  • Have precautions in place when going out – especially if you are alone.
  • Watch how much you drink. 
  • Register your belongings and keep them in the eye at all times.
  • Be extra wary of your car or transport and ask someone to walk with you if you feel unsafe.
  • Keep personal details safe.  

Being safe at home:

  • Create the illusion that someone is at your house. Play loud music or talk radio so that it sounds as if there is a lot of people inside the house.
  • Always make sure all exterior doors have reliable locks and that you know where all your spare keys are.
  • Always look out through a window before opening the door. You never know who is outside, nor if they are alone.
  • Don't leave the keys in obvious locations – try to find places people will not look.

Very few people enjoy conflict, and most people would state that they would prefer to avoid conflict in any way possible. Unfortunately, there are always going to be situations that arise that involve conflict. When you are involved in a verbal confrontation with someone and feel threatened, the most important thing you can do is try to de-escalate the situation so that you can remove yourself before that conflict increases to a dangerous level.
Being approached aggressively or being verbally threatened can be scary, here are some tips on what to do when you are being threatened.
Have Plenty of Patience and Stay Calm

When it comes to de-escalating a conflict, the best “weapon” you have is your patience. Any situation that feels as if it could potentially turn violent requires patience on your part, and careful response so that you do not further agitate the aggressor. Challenging them, retorting with your own threats or engaging them will more quickly lead to a higher level of conflict. On the other hand, your patience can keep the situation much calmer and potentially defuse the attacker and preventing any further action on their part.
Make Eye Contact

Looking away can often be perceived by an aggressor as a sign of fear. Keeping eye contact is a sign of confidence. While you do not want to antagonize someone acting aggressively toward you, you do not want to appear to be an easy victim, either.
Use Closed-Ended Statements

Do not ask questions or engage the aggressor in any way. If you are in an uncomfortable situation and you are being provoked, or verbally abused, the best way to de-escalate the situation is to simply not take the bait, resist the urge to defend yourself verbally, and resist the urge to ask them “why” they are doing this to you or “what” they want. When you make open ended statements, you are inviting additional conversation and giving the aggressor more opportunities to escalate the situation into something even more uncomfortable.
Do Not Fight Back or Become Aggressive

Responding to a threat with another threat is probably the quickest way to escalate a situation. In nearly every situation, the best thing to do is try to remove yourself and get away. Do not become engaged with someone that is being verbally abusive, it can very easily turn into a situation that is physically abusive.
Your personal safety should always be a priority. If you ever find yourself in a situation that is becoming uncomfortable or verbally abusive, you should do everything you can to de-escalate the situation before it becomes violent. An aggressive situation can turn violent very quickly, and with little provocation, and defending yourself from a physical attack is far more difficult than removing yourself from a threatening verbal conflict. Never, ever let an aggressor engage you in the type of verbal conflict that can escalate. It is far better to tolerate the verbal abuse and get away than let it escalate to a point where you become physically attacked, and potentially injured or killed.


Texting or Sexting – do you know what your child is doing?



In our day and age, we cannot imagine running our lives without mobile phones.  For the safety of our children (so parents always have contact with them) children at young ages already are kitted with their own mobile phones.  And of course, we give them ones with cameras, Wi-Fi and the ability to handle graphics as we want our children to take pictures,  communicate with their friends and play games. But, to a certain degree, we are allowing a potential problem into our homes when we give children mobile phones.

Unfortunately, one of the issues with mobile phones is that it is an easy way to reach the user directly and it is through apps like Snapchat, Tinder, WhatsApp and Kik (not exclusively, but predominantly) that sexting is taking place.

So, what is sexting?  Sexting has been described as the new flirting and is part of cyberbullying. It involves the sending and receiving of explicit messages, images or videos of a sexual nature. It includes explicit texts, nude or partially nude images sent to minors. This content is usually uploaded on a mobile device, from where it can be loaded onto social networking sites and shared further. The images can then be sent to or from a friend or just someone your child has met online.

It is still illegal to take, make or share an indecent image or video of a child under the age of 18 – even if it is consensual. The police forces in England and Wales recorded 6 238 underage “sexting” offences in 2016-17 – this is a rate of 17 per day!

Children think this is harmless and see it as a joke, an easy way to show someone you like them and trust them or just a cool thing to do! They may not realise the consequences of sharing personal information and how it can be potentially harmful to them in the future.  It is an offence under the Children’s Act, 2005 as amended, and Section 19 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and related matters) Amendment Act, 2007.

Sending and sharing nude or semi-nude photos or videos and/or sexually suggestive messages via mobile phone texting or instant messaging (sexting) between children may, therefore, depending on the content, also fall within the ambit of the prohibition of possessing or creating, producing and distributing child pornography.  It is important to note that if a child aids, incites, instructs, commands or procures another child to take and send such material, he or she will be guilty of an offence.

Although some children are willingly exchanging images, many may regret sharing the messages, images, and videos after they have sent or uploaded them. Once it is out there, there is no going back! Once a photo or video has been shared, there is no way of knowing how many people have saved it, tagged it or shared it.  What was sent as a show-off to friends and peers, may become a burden that follows you around as it can be shared repeatedly.  This, in turn, can be used to exploit young adults, extort additional photos, sexual favours and sometimes even money from victims.

What can I do if I suspect my child is involved in sexting?

  • Talk to your child:  encourage open dialogue about appropriate information to share with others online and offline. Be approaching and understanding - discuss sexting and make sure that your child understands what it is and what it involves.  Show that you understand that it may be a way of reflecting natural adolescent curiosity about nudity, bodies and exploring sexuality – but also explain why it is important that they think twice before sharing.
  • Explain the legal implications: children and young adults may not realise that what they are doing is illegal.  You must explain to the child that, even with consent, it remains illegal to take a sexual picture of a child under the age of 18.  This is also true for selfies!
  • Explain repercussions: It is important to make the child understand that once they have sent the image, they are no longer in control of it. Messages, images, and videos intended for an individual may end up where the whole world can have access to it.  Even if they completely trust someone, other people using their phone might accidentally see it.  And, later in life, when they are applying for work, it may affect their online reputation.  It has become customary for employers to screen the online profiles of potential employees before making a final decision.
  • Get the image deleted: your best will be to ask the person the image was shared with to delete the image.  You can also report the website if it was posted on a site, to get the image deleted.
  • When your child tells you about an image they received, firstly reassure them that they did the right thing to report this to you. Establish if your child requested the image or if they received it unwillingly.  If this image was sent by an adult, you must report this as there may be sexual exploitation or grooming involved.  Show your child how to use the block button on their devices and favourite apps to stop people from sending them unwanted messages. You can also set up parental control with your internet service provider or on the child’s phone to prevent access to harmful content.
A mobile phone is definitely very helpful and can play a crucial role in the safety of your child – but we have to understand that these devices can have devastating impacts on the lives of young adults if abused.  Protect your child against this form of exploitation!



Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Ebony and Ivory – a story of transformation



In August 2018 a young man walked through the gate, shoulders hanging.  He avoided eye contact and when he did make contact, he blushed.  We welcomed him with a smile and open arms but not without concern about his future.

He is a very talented young man, attending a prominent Afrikaans school in Pretoria and was in grade 11. The months leading up to his admission had been some of the most trying times in any persons’ life.  His father was in jail for a crime he had committed, and he had no contact with his mother.  At this uncertain time in his life, when he needed parents to guide and support him, he was alone. 

But Bramley became the new home for this child.  He made friends, bonded with his house mother and connected to a lady who saw his potential and is doing everything possible to set him up for his future. As a pianist his passion is to study music after school – and this is where he found his peace during this turbulent time in his life.

Over the months we have seen him transform from a dark, lonely child to someone with confidence, walking in the light. He is self-assured and looks the world straight in the eye.  His posture has changed, and he is now walking with his shoulders high and straight.  He looked so handsome at his matric farewell and even had the courage to ask a girl to accompany him!

What has happened to this boy is what we hope to see every time we admit a child to Bramley.  Working with him to cope with his troubled youth and giving him back the ability to dream.  We have spent hours in consultations and therapy with him understand that his past does not define his future. Therapy helped him to deal with his situation and realising his strengths and limitations. He was supported by the Social worker, his therapist as well as the caring teachers at school.

It was also rewarding for the big sister and other people involved with him, to see how this child opened his mind to positive influences.  He grabbed every opportunity on offer to improve himself, to have fun and enjoy the moment when sponsors or donors brought gifts or visited the Home.

And this again proves that the road to recovery is a two-way process. As much as we invest in the child, the child also needs to invest in him/herself.  If the child ignores the opportunities or does not want to work with the social worker in the programme, there is not much that can be done to change the child’s future.

Today he is writing his final matric exams.  And although the future is not looking all rosy for him, we are confident that he will use the chances he gets to improve himself and work towards a better future.  There will still be days he will ask “why me” but there will be days when he will say “thank goodness it was me”.   The process of healing is far from complete.  There are still issues he needs to work through.  But his admission to Bramley came at exactly the right time – we could still help him become the person he should be!

In his own words: People are always afraid of the unknown.  This is also how I felt when I heard that I would be staying in Bramley Children’s Home. I feared how the other people will be.  The staff was beyond kind! They made me feel welcome, the house parent was kind and welcoming too. To my surprise, I was accepted by the children when they arrived home from school.  I have made more than friends – I have found brothers!

Monday, 25 November 2019

Escape the cyber bully



Gone are the days that the bully was waiting for you under a tree or around a corner.  The bully is now in your hands and on your desk.  It can occur anywhere, through emails, cellular phones or social media websites. The effects can be devastating, leaving you feeling hurt, humiliated, angry, depressed or even suicidal.  This type of bullying is referred to as cyberbullying: bullying that takes place in the form of texts, as SMS’s or online in social media, forums or gaming where people can view, participate in or share content.

In a 2018 survey by Ipsos Global Advisor, it was found that South Africa showed the highest prevalence of cyberbullying amongst 28 countries that participated in the survey. According to the report, more than 80% of South Africans  said that they were aware of cyberbullying.  Fifty-four percent (54%) of parent who took part in the study admitted to knowing at least one child in their community who has been a victim of cyberbullying – this is an increase of 24% from 2011.

Cyberbullies torment their victims 24 hours a day and they follow the victim anywhere so that no place, not even home, ever feels safe, and with a few clicks, the humiliation can be witnessed by hundred or even thousands of people online.  Threatening and taunting messages through text can all have a serious impact on emotions and social interaction.

Here are more examples of behavior that could be cyberbullying:


  • Sending mean emails, texts or instant messages.
  • Sending neutral messages to someone to the point of harassment.
  • Posting hurtful things about someone on social media.
  • Spreading rumors or gossip about someone online.
  • Making fun of someone in an online chat that includes multiple people.
  • Attacking or killing an avatar or character in an online game, constantly and on purpose.
  • Pretending to be another person by creating a fake online profile.
  • Threatening or intimidating someone online or in a text message.
  • Taking an embarrassing photo or video and sharing it without permission.





It’s important to know that not all online conflicts between kids are cyberbullying. Sometimes, kids get into arguments on social media. They may also banter with each other or use inside jokes while texting. (Read about the difference between teasing and bullying.)

So what are the warning signs? A child may be the victim of cyberbullying if he or she –



  • Becomes sad, angry or distressed during or after using the internet or a phone;
  • Appears anxious when receiving a text, email or have been on social media websites;
  • Avoids discussions or is secretive about computer or cellular activities;
  • Withdraws from family, friends and activities they previously enjoyed;
  • Refuses to go to school or to specific classes, or avoids group activities; or
  • Illustrate changes in mood, behaviour, sleep, appetite or shows signs of depression or anxiety.




Earlier this year, a 13-year-old girl from Pretoria committed suicide after a photograph was sent around her school on WhatsApp.  It’s understood that the Grade 6 pupil took her life at her home after a Grade 7 pupil threatened to distribute a video of her naked.   

Cyberbullying has resulted in many suicides and has affected numerous people, so preventing this form of bullying has become a critical matter. Because cyberbullying is more of a covert style of harassment, it creates difficulty in identifying victims and dealing with perpetrators. So, what happens when cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful and criminal behaviour?  According to the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention South Africa does not have specific legislation dealing with cyberbullying.

You can prevent cyberbullying before it starts.  According to the South African Police Service, parents need to teach their children to block communication with cyberbullies.  Children should also be taught never to poster their personal information online, including full name, address, telephone numbers, school’s name and personal information of friends. Passwords should be kept secret and discussions about your life should not happen online. Parents should also monitor their children’s use of technology.  This can be done by keeping the computer in a busy part of the house, where it can be seen, add filters to your computer and tracking of inappropriate web content and by encouraging your child to share threatening messages with you.

If your child is the cyberbully or responded to bullying by using their own bullying tactics, help your child to find better ways of dealing with the problem.  Get a therapist to help if your child struggles to control anger, hurt and frustration.   Educate your child about bullying so that they understand how hurtful and damaging their actions and behaviour can be.  Limit your child’s use of technology until their behaviour improves.  Be consistent with rules so that the child understands your rules and the punishment for breaking the rules.

Explain the legal consequences to your child. The legal consequences entail that a perpetrator may be criminally charged with the following offences:

Crimen injuria – the unlawful, intentional and serious violation of the dignity or privacy of another person.
Assault – any unlawful and intentional act or omission which results in another person’s bodily integrity being directly or directly impaired or which inspires a belief or fear in another person that such impairment will be carried out.
Criminal defamation – is the unlawful and intentional publication of a matter concerning another, which tends to seriously injure his or her reputation.  This includes verbal and written defamation.
Extortion – is committed when a person unlawfully and intentionally obtains some advantage, which may be of either a patrimonial or non-patrimonial nature, from another by subjecting another party to pressure.

The victim of cyberbullying can apply at the nearest Magistrate’s Court for a protection order in terms of the Protection from Harassment Act, 2011 (Act 17 of 2011).

Prof Sanette Nel, Professor of Law: Department of Criminal and Procedural Law, UNISA


Friday, 22 November 2019

16 Days of Activism Campaign #COUNTMEIN



The national 16 days campaign, promoting activism for no violence against women and children, kicks off on 25 November.  It will once again place the safety of women and children under the spotlight until 10 December.

Violence takes many forms, including physical violence in the form of domestic violence and crimes like murder, robbery, rape, and assault.  It also includes emotional violence and trauma at many levels in the home, at work, at school and even on the street.  Other terrible forms of violence occur when poverty, starvation, unemployment, humiliation, and degradation thrive in communities.

The objectives of the campaign are to:

  • Encourage all South Africans to be active participants in the campaign to prevent violence against women and children, hence the theme: #Countmein;
  • Expand accountability beyond the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster to include all government clusters and provinces;
  • Combine technology, social media, the arts, journalism, religion, culture, and business to draw attention to the many ways violence on women and children affect the lives of people worldwide;
  • Mobilise communities to promote a collective responsibility in the fight to eradicate violence against women and children;
  • Encourage society to acknowledge that violence against women and children is not a government or criminal justice system problem, but a societal problem.  Failure to view it as such cause the campaign to fail.

The solution lies in all of us!  We all must take a stance in support of this campaign.  How can you show your support?

  • By wearing a white ribbon as a symbol of your commitment to never commit or condone violence against women and children.
  • Participate in the events organised all over the City of Tshwane.
  • Volunteer in support of NGO’s and community groups who support abused women and children.  Many of these organisations, like Child Welfare Tshwane, needs assistance from the public – volunteer your time or make a contribution to the work of Child Welfare Tshwane.  Use your skills and knowledge to help the victims of abuse.
  • Speak out against women and child abuse.  Encourage silent female victims to talk about abuse and ensure that they get help; report child abuse to the police; encourage children to report bullying to the school authorities; men and boys should also be encouraged to talk about abuse. 
  • It is important to get help if you are emotionally, physically or sexually abusive to your partner or children. You can call the STOP GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE HELPLINE on 0800150150.
  • Try to understand how your own attitude and actions might perpetuate sexism and violence. 

For more information or to get assistance, contact Child Welfare Tshwane on 0763485164 or ra@childwelfare.co.za

Friday, 8 November 2019

Bullying – Part 4 - How to prevent your child from getting bullied



November 2019
Written by: Yolandi Singleton

Before looking into how to prevent from getting bullied, I think we should look at why children bully other children. When we know the reasons for it, we can easier consider how to deal with it.

Children who bullies other children aim to gain as much control over others as they can, most probably due to them getting bullied or abused somewhere. When they then bully others, they feel that they can regain the power they lost. They also practiced bullying behaviour due to jealousy – they are often jealous of children who appear content and as if they have everything. Your child might grow up in a loving and stable home who always the supports and nurtures the child next to the sport field or choir events. 

The child who bullies will see this as a lack in their own lives and unconsciously desire the life of your child. Some children bully others because they have been exposed to domestic violence or have been sexually abused and others will bully children as they have not been taught social skills by their caregivers and therefore do not know how to interact or express themselves appropriately towards others. Some children who bullies are dealing with the loss of a significant loved one and have never dealt with the trauma and then attempt to gain control over their lives by trying to control others.

Based on the reasons why some children bully others, the following pointers are suggested to prevent your child from getting bullied by others with such troubled circumstances:

  • Work hard to boost your child’s self-esteem – many studies show that children with good self-esteem are less likely to get bullied
  • Encourage your child to be friendly and open towards everybody, even towards the ones that are not so popular amongst others – children who bully others are less likely to pick targets who have many friends
  • Build a good relationship with your child’s teacher or the head of department so that when your child gets bullied you are more assured that the teacher will act on it quickly
  • Advise your child to not move away from the group or go to the bathroom or to excluded areas on their own – stay in the group
  • When your child makes use of public transport advise them to sit as front as possible as children sitting alone at the back are often targeted
  • If your child walks home after school, arrange that someone walks with them
  • Do not give your child too much spending money for the tuck shop as the children who bullies easily targets children who look like they get everything
  • Raise your child to be caring and to never appear or act judgemental towards others – racism or talking badly behind others backs are never a good idea – it should feel nice to be nice
  • Teach your child to never encourage aggressive behaviour between peers
  • Help your child to be able to regulate their emotions, especially when they become angry – children who bully others see “angry children” as a challenge
I really hope that these guidelines can help you to think differently about bullying and that your children can be assisted through your life experience as well. Remember, nobody is perfect, but prevention is always better than cure.

All the best. 

Bullying – Part 3 - What do I do when my child gets bullied?



November 2019

Written by: Yolandi Singleton

For any child who gets bullied, it is an extremely stressful time for them especially if they do not have the appropriate skills to act on it or the ability to get out of it. Many parents’ advice their children to hit back, rationalizing that they should defend themselves. Yes, some children who bullies might end up stopping to bully them, but others who bullies will be encouraged to fight back even harder which could really cause huge damage. Is it worth the risk?

Some parents have found it useful to consult with the school when the bullying took place there as some schools really have a zero tolerance for bullying behavior and usually act quite promptly to that. Other schools still struggle to manage the discipline of trying to keep such behavior out of their school premises. The fact of the matter is that children not only get bullied inside the school premises, but also outside which the school can simply not take responsibility for.

When you are confronted with one of your children getting bullied, the next steps are advised:

  • When children get bullied it is vital that that they do not feel lonely as that is a feeling they usually experience.
  • During that time, spend extra time with them and turn on the TLC. It could help them to have the guarantee that when they arrive home there will at least be sufficient support for them by their loved ones.
  • It is okay if they cry about it and make sure to acknowledge their feelings. They probably experience feelings of powerlessness. Your prompt plan of action on how you will resolve the matter needs to be communicated to them so that they can at least feel more at ease that someone would try to make things better.
  • Allow them to tell you what happened as many times as they need – children can find enormous relief when they see they are being listened to.
  • Advise them to from now on never be alone again and to always have others around them as children who bullies often targets children who are isolated from the rest. If you must arrange alternative transport or whatever is needed to prevent re-occurrence.
  • Take care of any possible medical needs.
  • Report any bad injuries to SAPS so that the legal processes can take its course on the child who practices the bullying – a medical report could assist as an addendum to your statement.
  • Work out a plan of action together with your child on how to prevent the child who bullies to reach your child again.
  • Never underestimate the impact that bullying can have on your child – if your child’s behavior suddenly changes and gets worse, consider getting professional assistance
  • Your encouragement as a parent/caregiver is vital during this process as and your care could mean the world to them – do not forget to keep on boosting your child’s self-esteem, because a child with a good self-esteem is much less likely to get bullied.
Stay safe.
Yolandi



The adoption story


By Nina de Caires, Supervisor: Adoption Unit, Child Welfare Tshwane

Adoption is a special process of building “forever families”; of giving a child permanency, security and belonging within a home and loving family. Although it is a life-changing and very special process, it also comes with many challenges which are encountered along the way and need to be dealt with and addressed.

Challenges

Young biological mothers are unaware of the services available and make uninformed decisions, such as trying to abort their unborn babies which can have a negative effect on their babies and cause disabilities. It is very difficult to find adoptive parents for babies/children with special needs, which is sad as they then often end up in care centres.

Babies get abandoned in terrible circumstances, with no reference or information about the parents or their origin. They are rejected at birth and have a negative start in life, which is supposed to be so special.  

The process of declaring a baby adoptable is complicated and can take long with so many people and different Departments involved, namely the SAPS, the hospital, social workers, the child protection organisation, the court, the temporary safe care parents, Department of Home Affairs, the printed media (to advertise), Department of Social Development, and Department of Justice. Adoptions must be finalised in areas where the adoptive parents live. So, clearly a lot of networking is required.

All adoptions have to be done according to the Children’s Act 38 of 2005, Chapter 15 (and Chapter 16 for international adoptions).  However,  the various departments and courts interpret the procedures differently, which often has an impact in the finalisation of adoptions. It can become a lengthy process due to all the documents, clearances and reports that are required, which is understandable as adoption is a permanent process. Adoption affects the lives of all the parties involved, namely the birth family, the child and the adoptive family (also called the adoption triangle)

Rewards

Being part of the adoption journey is special and rewarding in that we are instruments in God’s hands,  creating families and futures for babies and children in need. We turn stories of pain and loss into stories of hope and love. We are part of the miracle of creating forever families and giving children a future by creating families that every child has a right to so that they can develop to their full potential.

Babies who were abandoned are often found to be the skinning light, ray of hope and love that a parent, or parents, have been longing for. They are answers to prayers of childless couples or individuals and give them a purpose when they receive the little life. It is as if they were always somehow destined to love, cherish, guide and nurture this particular child.

Many birth mothers are supported and counselled to make informed decisions regarding the future of their babies Some in desperation and out of deep, undying love for their little one, decide to let go of their own wishes and needs, to put the needs of their baby first, giving them a chance to live a life that they may otherwise never have had.  The ideal place for a baby is with the biological parents or families of origin, however every case is unique and dealt with as such.

Often an unseen team of “angels” out there – concerned members of the public, police officers, nursing and hospital staff, temporary safe care parents, magistrates of the court – who each in their own way, play a role in saving the precious life of that baby created with a destiny beyond what anyone could ever know or imagine.

One of the most profound  life experiences is the joining together of an adoptable baby and his or her successfully screened adoptive parents who simply fit together, like a hand in a glove – physically, emotionally, personality-wise and yes, spiritually – a destiny that was somehow miraculously designed and destined to be. This is just proof that there is a special plan for every baby that comes into this world. Many babies even look like the adoptive parents!

It is an honour to be an adoption social worker and to be part of such life-changing processes in the lives of babies, therefore, passion, dedication, detail, and focus are important.  But also to serve with integrity and to act in the best interest of children with the focus of finding families for adoptable children and thereby giving them permanency and belonging.

Adoption is a very powerful, life-saving, life-changing, life-giving process. It is a very special and heartwarming process and even though there are many challenges and practicalities in finalising adoptions at times,  the end result is so worth it.

Through the feedback from adoptive families and adoptees received it is clear that we make a positive difference in the lives of children and families.

SOME ADOPTION STORIES & TESTIMONIES:

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I decided to adopt cause after much trying I discovered I couldn’t have kids naturally. I had fears like I’m a single working woman and the fact that black communities are still not really open to adoption. I discussed with my family who agreed and stood by me through the whole process.

The process is long and needs patience but it’s worth it because the day I saw my boy Thato I knew he was made especially for me. My child has brought so much joy in my life and it makes me feel happy to see that I could provide love, family and a warm comfortable home for him. I will forever be grateful for this process and I would encourage people that, if God has blessed you enough give a home to a needy child you will not regret it as children are a blessing.

I’m still intending to adopt my second child hopefully a little girl this time. Lol I have too much love to give. It’s worth it and I wish people especially us the black community would open our mind to adopting kids who need love and homes.

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Joy unspeakable... Blessed beyond all measures... To know, firsthand, and to have the purest form of love in our home & hearts. Our son, Whanco is everything we could have ever wished for, hoped for, waited for and prayed for. For 12 years we prayed and waited on this young man and he is our whole life and being. Our every breath, our every move, our every step involves around this amazing little boy. If we never had this chance, at being his daddy & mommy, we would have most definitely missed him heartbrokenly... What an immense emptiness there would have been in our hearts. He fills us with everything beautiful! We could never have imagined having this awesome sweetheart in our lives.
He is our sunshine and the love of our lives. We love him more than life itself... More than the deepest deep of the ocean... More than all the grains of sand on the earth... More than all the stars ever created. He is our pride and joy, our little source of “peace” descended down from heaven. No matter what, he brings vacation to our lives. We adore this young dude, God blessed us with. He is our richness!!! We are so privileged... He is the most handsome, most clever, sweetest little angel ever known. Our little Gentle-Giant. How can we ever say thank you to Nina and her team at Child Welfare Tshwane, for what they have imparted into our lives... We are speechless! No words could ever describe! We pray that the Lord will truly and utterly bless every hand and life that had a hand in our unique and absolutely wonderful story of how we became the daddy & mommy to the BEST and most wonderful treasure this world has ever seen. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! God bless you all!

JP & Chantal Esterhuizen

This is a testimony of how adoption has changed our lives in such a wonderful way. We feel immensely and abundantly blessed... We are still speechless. This was the best thing ever. We feel so spoiled (rotten) by the 6-year-old blessing in our house, that we will never be able to describe. ATTACHED is a LETTER of GRATITUDE towards Tshwane child welfare and Nina who made everything happen. Bless you! Bless Child Welfare Tshwane and all the staff for making such a huge and enormous difference. Thank you!!! 
Past. C.L Esterhuizen 
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The adoption of my son by my husband has meant so much to our family as it closes a very painful and traumatic chapter in our lives, sealed by the birth certificate recently finalised that carries our son’s new surname making him officially my husband’s son. The adoption has proven that we can achieve anything as a family if we stick through it together and persevere, no matter how scary it may seem and no matter how long the process may be.

With our son being Special Needs, the adoption was all the more important to us so that we do not have to live in fear of the biological father trying to create disruption in his life. Luca has only known Evert as his Father, as Evert has been there his whole life, whereas the biological father was not, so it was vitally important for us to have the adoption finalised so as not to create any confusion for Luca who would not understand another man trying to be his Dadda.

Ina Venter was there every step of the way and gave us all the information we needed to get the process finalized, thank you so very much for all you did for our family. 

The first question people tend to ask when they see that we have adopted is “was it hard decision to adopt?” And we can very honestly answer, “No, it wasn’t”. As a couple we have always wanted to adopt and when we started the process, we didn’t know what we were in for, there were some challenges but the outcome was totally worth it. And now even after 3 years, we would do it again. It is both emotionally and physically rewarding to watch that little person unfold and develop before you as they grow, flourish and become themselves. It has been a privilege to adopt. To wake every morning to hugs and kisses from a child that may not share your blood, but definitely holds your heart. To know that, that little child loves you, just as much as you love them. And biology could never change that. It is really a privilege to walk the road of adoption, knowing that the journey is going to be a great adventure for you, for your family and the little one you are raising.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Bullying – Part 2 – Warning signs that your child might get bullied



Bullying – Part 2 – Warning signs that your child might get bullied
Written by: Yolandi Singleton
October 2019

It is always unpleasant to think about the possibility that your child might get bullied. It is an unfortunate reality that many kids are confronted with, especially having to face embarrassment when the bullying gets broadcasted on social media these days.

Children who get bullied often suffer severe emotional trauma especially when they feel lonely and perceiving that they can not tell anyone about it – therefore facing the issue on their own. A positive relationship with your child, including honest and open communication with them is therefore of cardinal importance so that they will be assured of your commitment and dedication towards them. I can not overemphasize the significance of your consistency in this regard.  Believe it or not, when your child really feels cared for and nurtured and perceives their parent to be entirely available to them at any time, they are much less likely to get bullied.

In the same breath, we can never predict children’s behavior. Your child might get bullied for various reasons, but it is mostly due to the person who bullies being jealous of the child who they bully or recognizing low self-esteem and therefore an easy target to control. In other words, children with good self-esteem are less likely to get bullied. Some children who bully other children are often bullied themselves or witness violent behavior in their homes or in the communities they are from and therefore normalize such behavior, especially if they are not guided by their families about socially appropriate behavior or effective conflict resolution.

Before I start listing some signs to look out for that indicates that a child might get bullied, it is important to bear in mind that some children never show any signs. Therefore, once again, it is important to ensure and commit to maintaining an open relationship with your child. If it means that you need to apologize to your child for often being unavailable to them in the past, do it. Do whatever you can to restore the communication so that your child will open up to you when they need you, such as when getting bullied.

The following signs are common indicators that a child possibly gets bullied or at risk to get bullied (remember that some of these signs could also indicate something else might be wrong):

  • Having injuries, but refuse to talk about them or even lie about it
  • Having dirty and torn clothes and also refuse to discuss it
  • Having regular excuses not wanting to go to school – even fake illnesses
  • Psychosomatic symptoms such as nausea, headaches or stomach aches
  • Complain about not having friends and sitting alone during break time
  • Express feeling afraid to walk alone around on the school grounds
  • Showing unexplained aggressive behavior towards family members or other children smaller than them
  • Sudden change in mood and behavior – showing more emotional vulnerability
  • Isolating themselves on a regular basis
  • Withdrawing from activities they used to like
  • Often feeling tired – which could mean that the child struggles to sleep or get nightmares
  • Express suicide thoughts, especially if some of the abovementioned signs are also present (remember that bullying alone will not cause children wanting to commit suicide, but rather in conjunction with other social or emotional challenges. Children who are from difficult home circumstances, including parental fights, domestic violence, dealing with a significant loss, lack of parental support, feeling lonely or being abused or neglected and then also getting bullied are much more likely to develop feelings of depression and suicidal thoughts.
Allow me to encourage you that when your child gets bullied, there are people willing to assist and support you and your child. Therefore, monitor your child and rather report any concerns to a professional until you feel you received the applicable help.
In my next article, I will cover some steps you can take when being confronted with a child getting bullied…

Be aware… until next time.