A beautiful day… sun shining, wind blowing, flowers blooming, rolling green hills, battered roads, all leads to an area called Kwanzimakwe. After a beautiful service at Freedom Gate, it was time to head South for the afternoon with our Give a Child a Family Foster Care Team, Monica Nomlala, Hazel Nondumiso Gigaba Cele, and Nomvuyi Seko Mvuyi, to meet our Foster Care Support Group.
This area brings back lots of memories. We drove past the little chapel where we had our first recruitment service in 2000/2001 for foster parents, starting out on a journey with great anticipation, not very sure of ourselves as this Foster Care for Africa had never been done before, from what we understood. Despite research, all that we could find was European, UK, and US Foster Care… which did not suit the African way of Family Care. Family Care was God’s plan for mankind – we messed it up – so now we need to continue being part of the solution. Family Care has always been an African Concept of Ubuntu, caring for each other’s children, but it had been disintegrated by Western thinking and a concept that institutional care was a good way to help children grow, develop and be educated. The thinking amongst others were that people were poor, therefore they could not care for their children. So instead of strengthening and developing the families and giving them coping mechanisms and parenting skills, children were removed and placed into orphanages and children’s homes, thinking they were doing them a favour. Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth and years of parental dysfunctionality and perpetuating generational breakdown of family ties ensued. We found ourselves (as GCF) wanting to bring back the real African ‘Ubuntu’ Family Care, ‘it takes a whole village to raise a child’. Individualism does not work in Africa. We are a people who are community and family-driven right to the core, so we had lost our bearing as a continent, thinking we were bad parents!!! Never and no ways – we are amazing parents ❤ That despite our circumstances of HIV and AIDS, poverty and many disasters that have befallen us, we rise!!! Someone needed to believe in the African Family. As the children in our Temporary Safe Care facility were “stuck” in this system and couldn’t move them to families, we realized we needed to do something drastic. HIV and AIDS were leaving Africa with single and sibling orphans, and building institutions for 4 – 6 million children who the powers that be projected would be orphaned, would have been an impossible task. There had to be another way. At GCF, we embarked on another way and started asking people ‘would they care for children that are not their own’ and there was a resounding YES!!! BUT, they are afraid and they don’t know how to??? Today is not the day to go into all the history of this story, but to say we started with the how? Doing some research into ways of Family Care in Africa. We met these beautiful people who were prepared to test the HOW with GCF! Several families signed up and in 2002 they, with some others from Margate, Murchison and Umzumbe, were trained in Foster Care. Today, 18 years later, we still have one lady who has walked this road with us and others. They were the first family to take in a child that had HIV amidst gasps of “how can you do that?” and “what if you get HIV and what if he dies?” The questions and reactions were endless. They, plus the boys, are alive and well and a great testimony to loving nurturing care of a secure family, where the whole family assisted in bringing up these boys in their home community with a sense of belonging (including the daughter of this couple, took good care of the boys when needed and the load is shared amongst them all).
GCF does not pay the Foster Parents. They get a small grant from the government, but what GCF offers after the screening, assessment, training, and introductions, we offer Support Groups for every family to join for a minimum of 2 years after they have received a child.
Today we heard how these ladies in this support group shared how through the Covid-19 situation when there were no support groups, they really appreciated the work being done and support given by each other and especially Monica Nomlala, who is the facilitator for these groups. One can see the bonds that have been formed, they pray and help each other, they welcome the new foster parents into their group, they rally around them and assist with any information and challenges.
This group shared how difficult it was to access assistance from their case managers during lockdown and there were many matters that needed smoothing out, which they get assistance with skills of how to push through, despite the rebuttals.
One lady shared about her child being re-united with her biological mother but there is such a bond with this Foster child that the child spends time in both families at her request and she now has 2 families to call her own. Beautiful transition and learning to hold our children with an open hand knowing that we want what’s best for the child.
Written by GCF Executive Director, Monica Woodhouse