Staff at the SA Children’s Home in Gardens have had to get creative with few resources to keep the children occupied and balanced during the coronavirus pandemic.
Originally known as the orphan house, the non-profit organisation was the first welfare institution established in the country, in 1808.
It is now a child and youth care centre that provides a loving, warm, happy and secure home for children of all ages.
The home said while some children have the benefits of families navigating the adversities and resilient parents who are modelling positive coping strategies for them, for the children in care, already removed by the courts from their families and communities, the ongoing pandemic restrictions can only exacerbate their sense of isolation.
The centre said for the 44 children who currently reside at the home, contact and activities with birth family members and foster families are highly regulated and specially arranged according to the best interests of each child.
The cancellations of visits and holiday plans, as well as school closures, have instead strictly confined them to the care home for most of the year.
Acting general manager of SA Children’s Home, Dawie Marais, said the children have experienced a range of emotions, from sad and disappointed to upset and unhappy.
“At the beginning, like all of us, the children were in shock. Their first reactions were of disbelief, they could not understand what we as adults tried to tell them. Some were scared, and some got angry and frustrated,” he said.
He said the staff had to patiently keep explaining what was happening, reassuring them that it wasn’t only happening to them and that the whole world was going into lockdown.
“Schools were closed for everyone, and unfortunately, for them, the regulations did not allow for any of the visits, outings and holidays that were already planned. We often used the example that even at old age homes, nobody from the outside could come in and visit the elderly.”
Mr Marais said many of them were anxious about being left behind in the school year, and others found the transition to home-schooling challenging.
A social worker at the home, Vasti de Villiers, said it helped to involve the children in watching President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Covid-19 briefings, and they were quick to adopt preventative measures and be part of the effort to keep themselves and others safe.
She said they started an organised programme for each section of the home on the hour, including sanitising routines to keep them actively involved with the process.
“They also have always had time for fun and play, and special arrangements were made for the children to phone family and loved ones three times a week. If necessary, some extra video calls were occasionally made.
“We have managed to maintain regular individual therapy sessions with social workers, and children in therapy took part in online counselling. We also introduced sibling sessions to foster family contact and support for each other,” she said.
The home also always needs donations of toiletries for the children (boys and girls aged 6 to 18) and food parcels for their Transitional Support Programme students. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are able to assist.