Future Families is a non-profit organisation rendering quality services to Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) and people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Our objective is to keep children in their families. This is sometimes a new type of family – a Granny-headed family, a youth-headed family or even a child-headed family. We empower the community to care for the family and create support to ensure the family can successfully raise balanced children who will become responsible members of the community.
Statement of the Problem
Communities across South Africa are facing the HIV/AIDS pandemic and its devastating effects on family life as we traditionally know it. There are an estimated 1.5 million orphans in South Africa – these children at an increased risk of sexual abuse, child trafficking and HIV infection.
Future Families’ primary area of service is Tshwane where more than 336 000 (14%) of the estimated 2.4 million residents are HIV-positive, more than 20 000 children have already been orphaned by AIDS, and another 100 000 are vulnerable due to their HIV status.
Poverty is a major contributing factor in the spread of HIV/AIDS. Many parents and caregivers are unemployed and dependent on government grants. Due to the debilitating nature of HIV and AIDS, the physical, psychological and emotional impact on the OVC is substantial. Stigma and discrimination remain unacceptably high and are significant barriers to access to adequate health care as well as psychological and social support for children.
Future Families operates in the areas of Mamelodi, Eersterust, Olievenhoutsbosch and Sunnyside, all of which are inhabited by large numbers of impoverished, unskilled and unemployed peolpe. Informal settlements in these areas are rapidly increasing the demand for health and welfare services.
In the 2009 report published by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), the most at-risk populations were identified as African women between the ages of 20 and 34 years, with 32.7% of this group currently infected; and African men between the ages of 25 and 49 years, with 23% of this group currently infected. This indicates a crisis for many African families. Women in their child-bearing and economically productive years are at the most risk for the disease. The illness and death of these parents results in the severe disruption of family functioning.
To break this cycle, meaningful interventions are required. They can only be provided through the collaboration of skilled professionals and those with the required financial resources. Together, we can rescue families and communities.
A. Model for OVC Care Developed and Implemented by Future Families
This model has been developed and refined over a number of years and is now running smoothly and ensuring quality care is provided to children at risk.
- Recruitment of careworkers
- Careworkers are recruited from the local community based on specific criteria. It is critical that the Careworkers meet our standards and that they know the community, as they become responsible for keeping thier eyes and ears open to the needs of the children.
- Training of careworkers
- The Careworkers receive accredited training on both a theoretical and practical level. Follow-up training on basic counselling skills is provided, as is ongoing in-service training.
- The careworkers identify children at risk
- This is done through local schools and clinics who see the children every day and know which children are having difficulties at home.
- Assessment of families
- An assessment form is completed on each family and a Care Plan developed with the Social Worker. The family’s information is captured in the database and the monitoring and evaluation officer updates the database monthly.
- Visits to the family
- The family is visited weekly by the Careworker and spot checks are made by the team leader and Social Auxiliary Worker to ensure no children are neglected in this process.
- Supervision of careworkers
- All Careworkers receive fortnightly supervision from the Social Worker to ensure their work is up to standard and the children are receiving appropriate assistance. Progress reports are written on each family.
- Development of service delivery plan
- An annual plan is developed for each family, with monthly themes developed to ensure key themes are addressed. Such themes include nutrition, immunisation, parenting skills, life skills, HIV/AIDS and ARV treatment. Each Careworker is educated regarding the monthly themes and receives training in ways to address the topics with the families.
- Development of homework classes
- It has been shown that many high-risk children struggle academically in the foundation phase of education. We develop homework classes in collaboration with the community schools where the children each receive a sandwich, a piece of fruit and a juice, as well as assistance with their homework. This interaction contributes to building the trusting relationships between the children and their Careworkers that are important if the children are to turn to their Careworkers in a time of crisis.
- Holiday projects
- During every school holiday, a life skills project is held for the children. The projects address age-appropriate life skills surrounding issues such as HIV, communication, sex education and career planning. The HSRC research indicated girls who were sexually abused as children often participate in subsequent high-risk sexual activities that increase their risk of HIV infection, so the prevention of sexual and child abuse is also addressed in the holiday projects. Each year some children are taken on a camp for a more intensive counselling experience.
- Peer education
- Vhutsilo – meaning “Life”, is a peer education programme developed by the Centre for the Study of Peer Education and the Harvard School of Public Health. It is a structured programme addressing life skills for 11-13 year olds. We implement this programme on an ongoing basis.
- Vegetable gardens
- Vegetable gardens are developed in the gardens of the families that we reach. They provide nutritional food, as well as an opportunity to earn income from the sale of the excess vegetables.
B. Support Group for HIV+ People
In 2001, we started running support groups for HIV+ people and we continue to do this in Mamelodi. Members attend the groups every day and receive a Social Work intervention programme on how to cope with their disease.
In the group we focus on:
- Understanding your disease
- What is your CD4 count and when to start ARV treatment
- Who should know of your status
- Not passing the disease to others, particularly to your partner and your unborn child
- Nutrition and, where possible, establishing a vegetable garden at home
- Parenting skills
- Problem resolution
- Developing a skill to enter the employment market
The support groups have helped many people enter the job market and live healthy and fulfilled lives despite their HIV status. We have established relationships with a number of employers who approach us when they have a vacancy and many of our members have secured jobs. All the pregnant women in the group have had babies born HIV-. The life stories of the group members are the inspiration in our work.
C. Mothusi Educational Outreach
This is an educational outreach programme run by HIV+ people who have passed through the support group. They are well-trained and passionate about preventing other people from becoming infected.
The educators visit local municipal health clinics and local schools every day. They share the reality of living with HIV through their powerful personal testimonies. They encourage people to be tested and to know their status. Those who are HIV+ are referred to clinics and support groups and those who are negative are educated on how to stay negative.
This passionate group of educators reaches 55 000 people each year.
Ours is a comprehensive model of community mobilisation, support and education. Entire communities benefit when the careworkers become empowered to care for the children they visit and learn skills that enhance their own family life and give them the confidence they need to find permanent employment outside of the Future Family projects. We currently reach 6 500 OVCs and 50 HIV+ adults. In addition, 55 000 community members receive valuable education regarding HIV/AIDS.
The children we reach grow up in a nurturing environment, with a safety network in place so they know who they can turn to in times of trouble. They are assisted with their homework, learn about good ways to use their time, and receive life skills education so they are aware of their rights.
The community forms a stable foundation for the growth of individuals and families.
These children will become independent, empowered adults in their community, capable of planning their own future.