"Within the Isibindi model, child and youth care workers visit identified orphans and vulnerable children in their homes and provide comprehensive services. This includes accompanying and representing children at schools, health services and government offices, when necessary. They also provide psychological support through memory box activities, grief work, building of relationships, identifying needs and feelings, providing developmental care, behaviour management, activity programming, risk assessment and life space counseling."
- Winnie Direko (Honorable MP), on the occasion of the second reading of the Report of Portfolio Committee on Social Development on Children's Amendment Bill, Parliament, Hansard. 6 November 2007
Winner of the ‘Platinum’ Impumelelo Award, the Isibindi Model was designed by the National Association of Child Care Workers, and is implemented in over 55 sites in 8 provinces - by over 40 partner organizations.
The Isibindi Model responds holistically to the needs of children, youth and families who are vulnerable and at-risk. Unemployed community members are screened, selected, trained and deployed as child and youth care workers servicing families in their own communities. They work under the mentorship of experienced social service professionals, blending practical household support tasks with care and development opportunities.
Isibindi child and youth care workers in each Isibindi project work accountably in the lifespace of some of South Africa’s most vulnerable children, including those affected by HIV/AIDS where children are orphaned, live in child-headed households or grannyheaded households, or care for their ailing parents.
Benefits accrue to all in the replication of the Isibindi Model. Organizations are assisted to grow and access further resources; communities are strengthened through the injection of skills and resources; and workers are set on a career path in a recognized profession. But the ultimate beneficiaries of all Isibindi projects are desperate children and families who would not otherwise have had access to formal care and assistance.
Additional components of the Isibindi Model include food gardens, income generation programs, the Safe Park program, the Life Centre program and supported foster care. Programs have been developed to address special areas of vulnerability as follows:
Girl Child Program: girl children and young women heading households of siblings are offered an intensive program of self-development and career information and planning. The girls’ increased capacity is supported by women child and youth care workers who undergo gender awareness training and help the girls to access skills development training and work opportunities in their communities.
Care for Caregivers: child and youth care workers face extreme hardship and pain in their daily working lives. This program provides group and individual counselling to teams of child and youth care workers to support the development of their emotional depth and stamina.
Child Protection Program: vulnerable children from under-resourced rural communities, who become victims of sexual abuse, are provided with opportunities to heal - through therapeutic support involving individual and group counselling, therapeutic lifespace work and ongoing individual development plans.
Disability Program: the increased incidence of disability linked to the HIV/AIDS pandemic spurred the development of a screening and assessment program where children are provided with access to remedial therapy and (where possible) assistive devices.
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Children have a right to be children - to play and to dream. This is understood so universally that Article 31of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child requires all ratifying countries to;
But in South Africa, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has forced many children to take on adult responsibilities. They care for dying parents, look after younger siblings, learn to cook and clean. Play - so vital for healthy child development - is compromised as children become parents to younger siblings. The Safe Park concept seeks to remedy this reality for children by providing them with the time and the place to play - within the protective circle of trained child and youth care workers.
The National Association of Child Care Workers has developed the Safe Park model currently being replicated across South Africa by over 20 organisations. Safe Parks provide exactly this - safe places for children to play where they have access to adult supervision and can play in peace and safety. Especially important for children heading households, the model is implemented by organisations in a formal way where land is allocated by local authorities and equipment is in place. But the model is also implemented informally where resources are scarce. The key ingredient for the success of the model is the nurturing and exciting presence of child and youth care workers! Children like to play where adults are! They also like to play with adults, and get involved in structured activities. The Safe Park model offers the possibility of wholesome fun in the context of desperate lives - an essential ingredient for overcoming hardship.
Most importantly, the Safe Park is a place where the community embraces its members, countering the stigma that plagues children and families affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. A Safe Park is a wonderful place of healing, support, and belonging.
"No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth. A society that cuts off from its youth severs its lifeline." - Kofi Annan
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