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The History          

The roots of Cape Town Child Welfare were laid down in 1908, with the establishment of The Society for the Protection of Child Life, and the opening of the first emergency home for children.

The Society set out to place child care squarely in the public eye, playing an active role in the promulgation of the Children's Protection Act of 1913, and advocating for the establishment of specialised training courses for social workers.

Soon, children’s homes, hostels, clinics and “places of safety”, as well as special nursery schools and crèches began to appear across Cape Town.

In 1978, The Society for the Protection of Child Life became known as "Child Welfare Society Cape Town". Branches of the Society began to operate crèches in poorer, non-white communities such as Manenberg, Heathfield and Hanover Park. The Khanyisa Pre-school opened in Guguletu, and the first shelter for street children, The Homestead, opened its doors in 1982.

1986 proved a truly watershed year, with the introduction of a comprehensive child welfare service to non-white communities, and the development of an effective practice model for child abuse.

By the early 90’s, Cape Town Child Welfare had begun to take a holistic, proactive approach to child care. With the spotlight now on the poor communities (where child abuse was more rife), a new department was set up, devoted solely to community development and to improving the conditions and culture in which children found themselves.

While the focus remained on children in the 0-12 age group, Cape Town Child Welfare branched into providing training, guidance and similar support to older children, with “Educare” centres - initiated, managed and staffed by community members – established in many of Cape Town’s informal settlements. In addition, decentralised offices were set up – in close proximity to the communities they served, and with greater emphasis on the employment of non-professionals.

By the mid-90’s, Cape Town Child Welfare projects were providing pre-school care and education to some 1 200 children, and development work (undertaken in the largely informal communities of Philippi, Khayelitsha, Lotus River and Hout Bay) was reaching over 5 000 people annually.

In order to cope with the growing need for emergency care for children in crisis, Cape Town Child Welfare began to get more lay people involved and enlist the help of the community. Over the last 15 years, the organisation has built up a network of community emergency homes in all areas, with up to six children able to be accommodated safely in one household. It also established Isolobantwana ("Eye on the Children") a unique Child Protection Programme run by community-based volunteers. In 2004, Cape Town Child Welfare completed its evolution from a purely specialised child welfare organisation to a social development body. Adopting Thembalabantwana (Hope for our Children) as its business model, the organisation established six “hot spot” community-based centres, with the overall aim of addressing the complex needs of South African society – HIV/Aids, poverty, unemployment, and others.

Two years later, Cape Town Child welfare introduced the HELPKIDS Hotline for children in crisis. The helpline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and means that whatever the time or place, children at risk have a platform to seek the help they need.


 Who we are

Vision & Mission


Areas of Operation

Annual Report