Cape Town Child Welfare Society has a Head office situated in Athlone so as to increase its accessibility to the community it serves. In addition is also has sit offices within Lotus River/Ottery, Manenberg, Hanover Park and Langa. It has a satellite office situated within Khayelitsha.
Cape Town Child Welfare Society has adopted a three tier organizational structure in order to create an efficient and effective work flow and service rendering: 1x Director, 2x Senior Supervisors, 7x Supervisors who are responsible for providing supervision and consultation to social work practitioners across 7x units.
During the early 1900s, following the South African War, the infant immortality figures spiked alarmingly, mainly as a result of malnutrition, poverty and neglect. Children were being handed over for adoption for money, which was termed then as “Baby Farming”. As a result, the Cape Infant Life Protection Act was passed in 1907. A further challenge faced at the time where children as young as four years old were being used to beg for money in the late hours of the night. There was no law in place to protect these children. After public meetings held on the 30 April 1908, it was decided to form an organization concerned with the welfare of children called the Society for The Protection of Child Life (now Cape Town Child Welfare Society). The purpose of the organization was to prevent cruelty to children, to enforce the Act of 1907 for the protection of infants, lobby for juvenile courts and reformatories, train and support mothers in the care of babies and children, and to promote any other measures that would improve the well-being of children emotionally; morally and physically.
Founding principles and origins
One of the Society’s core beliefs was and still remains that a child’s rightful place is with his/her biological parent first and foremost and therefore all efforts should be made to preserve the family.
Sadly, there are situations when it is not in the child’s best interests to remain in the care of their parents, resulting in the need for statutory intervention and the temporary placement of children with temporary safe care parents while the social worker investigates the suitability of the parents to care for the child/ren. This resulted in the first Emergency Home being opened in Hatfield Street, Cape Town, which also provided Day Nursery Facilities. The Society ran these facilities through funds as obtained from the public.
The Governor’s wife, Lady Buxton at the time took a keen interest in the Society for the Protection of Child Life, and consented to opening a Wynberg Hostel, which was a much larger premises due to the demand for the services, which at the time was impacting on 3000 children in 1914.
Lady Buxton, with the assistance from The Eaton Trust opened The Lady Buxton Home, a small infirmary, in June 1917. Until mid-1918, 51 children passed through the home, and the largest number residents at any time was 40. The influenza epidemic at the time claimed many lives resulting in a number of orphaned children being placed for adoption via the organization.
Due funding challenges experienced by The Buxton Centre, the Society for the Protection of Child Life sought alternatives. In 1920, a Mr H.F. East donated a large piece of land in Claremont. A Mr John Garlick and the League of Help and Remembrance came up with the funds to build a special Home, which was completed on 19 February 1922. Informal training of nursemaids and domestic nurses took place at the Buxton.
On the 14th July 1925, Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, consented to formally open The Lady Buxton Home as a Mothercraft Training Centre (including a Dietetic Hospital and Emergency Home for infants.
The Mothercraft Training Centre, under medical direction, aimed at education and training of mothers and nurses in all that pertains to the care and nurture of growing infants. The Emergency Home for infants accommodated for infants-age six who were in need of care for a time, during a mother’s illness or confinement, or owing destitution, neglect or from some other cause.
By 1928, the Buxton premises were over occupied due to the Mothercraft training provided and an increase in the need for services. In March 1928, the Struben family transferred an adjacent mansion and extensive grounds to the Society for the protection of children.
The mansion, Casa Nuova (now The Harry and Mary Struben Memorial) was influenced by the Herbert Baker architectural design. Years later, monetary fund’s received from the leasing of The Harry and Mary Struben Memorial still assists the significant work carried out by Cape Town Child Welfare Society to its communities.
The Society set out to place child care and protection 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 specialized 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 vulnerable 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 vulnerable communities, and the development of an effective practice model for child abuse.
By the early 90’s, Cape Town Child Welfare Society had begun to take a holistic, proactive approach to child protection. With the spotlight now on these vulnerable communities, a new department was set up, devoted solely to community development and to improving the circumstances in which children found themselves within these communities.
While the focus remained on children in the 0-12 age group, Cape Town Child Welfare Society branched into providing training, guidance and similar support to older children.
Educare Centres were also initiated, managed and staffed by community members – established in many of Cape Town’s informal settlements. Decentralised offices were set up – in closer 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 Society projects were providing pre-school care and education to approximately 1 200 children, and development work (undertaken in the largely informal communities of Philippi, Khayelitsha, Lotus River and Hout Bay) reached over 5 000 people annually.
In order to cope with the growing need for emergency care for children in crisis, Cape Town Child Welfare Society began to recruit, screen and train lay persons from the community to assist with caring for children in crisis.
Cape Town Child Welfare Society also established Isolobantwana (“Eye on the Children”) a unique Child Protection Programme run by community-based volunteers. In 2004, Cape Town Child Welfare Society completed its evolution from a purely specialized child welfare organization to one that also provided services with a social development focus.
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 related social problems.
With the implementation of the Children Act 38 of 2005 in 2010 and the associated increased statutory expectations it became necessary to revert back to a primarily specialized child protection model in order to ensure compliance iro the provisions of this new legislation.
A gradual increase as noted in gangsterism, crime, substance abuse, behavior problems in children, foster grant and child support grant applications resulted in workload challenges being experienced in particular by the social work staff compliment. This necessitated further specialization and realignment of the organizational structure in order to create a more efficient and effective workflow and service delivery.
Cape Town Child Welfare Society has a courageous, dedicated staff compliment who risk their lives on a daily basis by entering high risk communities such as Manenberg, Hanover Park and Lotus River /Ottery where gang warfare and crime is rife in order to protect children at risk.