Maverick Citizen

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

One Child One Family — giving children a voice and preventing harm

One Child One Family — giving children a voice and preventing harm
The One Child One Family event concluded with a balloon release. Attendees were encouraged to write a message with their wishes for children’s rights and safeguarding. (Photo: Busisiwe Mphapang)

The nonprofit organisation One Child One Family recently gave children a chance to creatively express their issues and rights. The organisation has also established networks to identify at-risk households to keep children safe.

On 20 June at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, children had a chance to creatively express themselves about their issues and rights. A drama piece focused on parents with substance abuse issues. 

The event was hosted by One Child One Family – Hope and Homes for Children South Africa, a nonprofit organisation. 

“The purpose of today is to provide a platform for the youth. We have a programme called Our Voices Matter, and in this programme, we look at creating platforms for youth to be able to exercise their freedom in an inclusive way, in a way that they can share whatever they feel in a respectful and responsible way,” said Melissa Cannell, operations manager at One Child One Family.

“There is a lot of learning happening in the community and it is amazing to see the energy when they are debating around critical issues.” 

one child one family

One Child One Family – Hope and Homes for Children South Africa recently held an event focused on child rights, protection and safeguarding. ‘Our vision is a world in which no children suffer institutional care and our mission is to catalyse the elimination of institutional care globally. Our goal is to position care reform for a deinstitutionalised child protection system as a human imperative by 2030,’ said Melissa Cannell. (Photo: Busisiwe Mphapang)

Awanda Godongwane from One Child One Family said that Our Voices Matter “is a programme where we grant young kids a platform to raise their voice, identify social challenges, and to actually propose solutions to responsible stakeholders like government, local municipality and community leaders”.

The organisation’s Thato Moeng said, “More than anything, we are giving kids the platform to express themselves, and not only what they want to say, but how they want to say it.” 

Not all children feel comfortable giving a speech, and some would rather voice their opinion through art or poetry. 

Early intervention model

One Child One Family also has an early intervention and prevention model to protect children, called AFS-Khusela. There are about 20 AFS-Khusela networks in communities all over Gauteng.

“AFS-Khusela is an early intervention and prevention model that empowers local community members to be able to identify cases before families get broken down. Our whole aim is that they address family breakdown, they work together with the department and social service professionals,” Cannell said.

“What they do is identify households that are in distress and at risk of breaking down, and then they refer to the Department of Social Development or any statutory body that is allocated within their community.”

one child one family

Attendees were encouraged to sign a pledge that called for the national government to implement the AFS-Khusela Prevention model nationally. (Photo: Busisiwe Mphapang)

Family strengthening is at the heart of these networks.

“What we have seen through this programme is that if we identify families that are on the brink of a breakdown and help them before they get there, children don’t need to be removed,” she said.

“In cases where children need to be removed, we have something set up, called temporary safety carers, in the community, so that children can still live ongoing active lives in their community which they know and are accustomed to.

“They do awareness campaigns, empower the youth to address critical issues and through that, we create these kinds of platforms.”

‘Children protection agents’

Zandile Thabethe, a member of the AFS-Khusela network in Meadowlands, Soweto, spoke about the community’s responsibility to ensure children are protected.

“Children are influenced by communities positively or negatively. As a community, we are responsible for child protection. Our vision is to enhance human wellbeing and help meet the basic and complex needs of all people, with a particular focus on those who are vulnerable, oppressed and riddled with poverty,” she said.

The AFS-Khusela network in Meadowlands has four other members, all women, who Thabethe describes as “children protection agents”. 

“We are the eyes and ears within our community on all matters related to the protection of children,” she said.

one child one family

Zandile Thabethe, a member of the AFS-Khusela Network in Meadowlands, Soweto spoke about the community’s responsibility to ensure children are protected. (Photo: Busisiwe Mphapang)

Thabethe said that their aim was not to separate the children from the family, but rather to identify problems affecting families. 

“In the area I am coming from, children are being exposed to drugs. From corner to corner, we have drug houses. I don’t know if I can say the law is failing us or the police are failing us because they know those houses, but they are doing nothing,” she said. 

Thabethe said that the AFS-Khusela network had to intervene in a case where parents were staying in a drug house with their 10-month-old baby.

“There are a lot of cases which are very bad and these affect our children, so we as AFS-Khusela are protecting those children,” she said.

A word from the department 

The Gauteng Department of Social Development had a participatory session with the children on child trafficking. Children were informed that the National Human Trafficking Hotline number is 0800 222 777, while the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre number is 0800 428 428.

Simphiwe Nzama, the assistant director of childcare services in the department, emphasised the importance of building a child-friendly environment that fosters long-term stability for children and protects them from harm.

“It is a good programme for kids and for the department as well. It is good in the sense that the children that are currently being admitted to the institutions do not belong to those institutions, they belong to their families.

“At some point, they have to go back to their families so I think the initiative that the department has with [One Child One Family] is preparing these children for the time they get to be reunited with their families so they will be able to adapt and adjust,” he said.  

Cannell said they hoped to expand the AFS-Khusela networks to 30 communities across the country.

“In Gauteng, we want to link up with the Children’s Parliament. We are really looking for platforms for children to be able to voice their opinions, but not just opinions about trivial things, but really opinions that link to their own protection and safeguarding.” DM

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