Celebrating Youth Care Workers as champions of change

This week is Child and Youth Care Week, from 3 – 9 May. This is a week we observe and acknowledge the work dono by all in protecting and looking after vulnerable children in our society. This year’s celebrations are held under the theme “Valuing a Resilient Profession”.

This theme reflects the complexity of the situation faced by child and youth care workers in South Africa.

According to Wikipedia Child and Youth Care (CYC) is a profession which focuses on the developmental needs of children and families within the space and time of their daily lives. Child and Youth Care is primarily a way of working with other practitioners and can be found in a variety of roles including direct care, private practice, educator, trainer, writer, supervisor, manager, researcher, and more.

They are sometimes known as Child and Youth Workers, Child and Youth Counselors, Youth Workers, or Child and Youth Care Workers. There are strong connections around the world between Child and Youth Care.

In simple terms, these workers provide care that ensures that the most vulnerable children in Child Youth Care Centre are always kept neat , live in clean and attractive buildings and facilities. They also provide a caring, stable, consistent and structured environment for children; to meet a child’s physical, emotional, social, spiritual, educational and cognitive growth. These centres are affectionately known as children’ s home.

Child protection, care and safety remains a priority for the Gauteng Provincial Government, thus ensuring that children in need of care and protection are placed in safe environment.  But as a department we also salute those that ensure that this is realised.

The work done by these caregiver is somewhat  not getting enough recognition as they play a key role of mother to the vulnerable children, a mother just like a hen that keeps a watch over their little ones around the clock, and one say it is one of the most difficult and yet fulling tasks. As Social Development we would like to say your work does not go unnoticed.

As of 31 March 2022, more than 200 child and youth care worker were registered with the SACSSP as professionals. Furthermore, 8,358 child and youth care workers were registered as auxiliary. The profession continue to grow a total 4055 are registered with the council as students in child and youth care work.

We applaud Child Youth Care Workers in our department’s institution, including those in Non-Profit Organisations and every where they practice. These are champions in our child and youth care centre. They continue to be champions of hope in our schools and communities.

A letter of appreciation once sent by a 25-year-old Jabu Makhoba from Duduza read:

“As a teenager, I attempted suicide twice due to hardships and hopelessness during my upbringing. My mother passed on in 1999 when I was 8 years old. I never knew my father. I spent a quarter of my life in the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and government-run facilities.

I was described as one of the mischievous children during my time in the institutions and used to abscond for no apparent reason. I moved to several places of safety including Don Mattera Child and Youth Care Centres (CYCC’s) where I absconded and stayed on the streets for five months.   I used to break windows with my bare hands and did horrible things in these institutions.

I started to see change when I was at Don Mattera CYCC doing grade 7 and I was moved to Ikhaya Lo Thando in Tembisa in 2016 after changing completely. One of the things that helped me to change my behaviour is because I suddenly became spiritually inclined and started to see life differently.

I completed matric while staying at Ikhaya Lo Thando and received a scholarship from one of church NGOs called Acts of Love in Midrand.  As a young man from Nigel I defied all odds of being an orphan and managed to obtain a BA Degree in Journalism from the University of Johannesburg. Two years later, I graduated with an Honours Degree in Communications, and I never looked back ever since.

I worked for various companies in Johannesburg including SABC1 programme called Nyan ‘Nyan in 2016 as a Script Writer and ANN7 Media Group in 2017 before joining the Gauteng Department of Social Development as a Communications intern 2019.

Currently I’m  working as a Journalist for a prominent media group.

Growing up as an orphan does not mean the end of one’s dreams. There were challenges that I turned into opportunities through hard work. My journey in life has not been easy, but things are starting to come together. Thank you to Social Workers and Care Workers in all the institutions for caring for me & for teaching me self-reliance.

I urge young people to understand that their background should not stand in the way of their dreams and goals.  One just needs the right frame of mind, a good attitude and self-discipline. Thank you to the Gauteng Department of Social Development.” 

Letter from beneficiary Jabu Khoza

The story of this young man confirms that our perception of human rights, dignity and freedom, cannot be based merely on statistics and numbers. They are forged out of a reality that speaks to how our painful past is being altered for the better, by Child and Youth Care workers and the ANC-led government.

Busi Kheswa works at the Social Development Department in Gauteng

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