THE IMPORTANCE OF SAFETY PARENTS

Imagine this. Your phone rings at the most inconvenient time. You recognise the number and know immediately that you must answer. You are needed now! A social worker is on the other side of the line telling you that a baby is at risk and has been removed from the mother. The question you know will come, arises fast: “Are you available to care for the child?” You say yes, and in short you have someone else’s baby in your arms. You see that the child is distressed and anxious, big tears are rolling down the cheeks while the baby cries loudly. Little arms are moving and legs are kicking. You are a complete stranger to the child, but it is now your responsibility to make sure that he or she feels safe in a big, scary world. For a day, a few weeks or months. This is a scenario in the life of a safety parent.

As many of you know, GCF has had a Foster Care programme for many years, but since a few years back we are also recruiting, screening and training potential safety parents, specifically to care for children on a short-term basis.  

The process of becoming an approved safety parent and being added to our database is the same as becoming a foster parent through GCF. If you would be interested, this is how it works. You and everyone else in your household will go through in-depth interviews, several times in your own home. You will undergo training and must submit the required documents. If approved, you will be accessible to social workers in the area (through GCF). So, instead of a young child being admitted to GCF’s child and youth care centre, he or she will be welcomed into a family prepared for situations like the one mentioned above. Always bear in mind that this is short-term. The child will remain with you until the social worker who did the removal has investigated the situation and determined the way forward.

The reason we put hard work into this programme is plainly that GCF strongly believes that care in families is so much better for a child compared to care in a child and youth care centre, which is backed up by lots and lots of research from many countries in the world. The first 1000 days in a child’s life are shown to be the most crucial for their development. What they learn and how they develop during this period will follow them for the rest of their lives. It includes learning to bond with a parent, to trust and start to understand how the world works. In an institution, like a child and youth care centre, there is little room for flexibility, one-on-one attention and “me & myself” time. Everything is organised into strict routines, it is impersonal and the relationships between child care workers and children are professional, and not as with a parent. I could continue with this topic, as there is much more to say, but will spare you for this time …. I think you get the point. Children need families!  

Are you someone with a passion for vulnerable children and would like to start the journey of becoming a safety parent?

Contact us on 039 317 2761 or email info@gcf.org.za.

Note that you must live in the UGU District in KZN, South Africa, otherwise, kindly contact your nearest social work office or child welfare for information.

Written by Anna-Karin Öhrnstedt

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