South Africa has trained more than 6,700 unemployed citizens as Child and Youth Care Workers (CYCWs) to support the country’s 3.5 million orphans and 12.7 million vulnerable children at risk due to poverty, disability, violence and the impact of HIV/AIDS. The Isibindi model of care sends trained carers into households to help children and adolescents cope with the trauma of death, and teach them the skills to manage their households in the absence of parents. Young people helped by Isibindi carers exhibit higher levels of self-esteem, improved problem-solving abilities, and a lower risk of HIV infection.
Results & Impact
The Isibindi franchise serves more than 320 sites across South Africa, reaching well over 100,000 orphans and vulnerable children per year. Quasi-experimental post-intervention trials show ex-participants of Isibindi reporting higher self-esteem and problem-solving abilities, more family support and lower HIV risk than control members. Some 70% of children helped by Isibindi graduated from secondary school, while many orphans drop out of school to care for their siblings. Since 2013, 2,410 children have been removed from situations endangering their wellbeing, following referrals by the program’s Child and Youth Care Workers to social services and the police.
National Association of Child Care Workers, Department for Social Development, PEPFAR, UNICEF, Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation, local implementing partners.
Isibindi trains unemployed locals to provide care and support to children bereaved by the AIDS pandemic in their own homes. Prospective Isibindi child and youth care workers are screened, trained, accredited, mentored and monitored by the National Association of Child Care Workers (NACCW) as they support children at risk to run parentless households or care for dying relatives. Their salaries are paid by central government. The Isibindi model is a social franchise: the NACCW or Department of Social Development enters into formal partnerships with community-based implementation partners who roll out the Isibindi model in their communities.
Children, young people
Cost & Value
New Isibindi sites are estimated to cost around $35,000.
Started in 2001, and rolled out nationally since 2013
One hurdle has been operational: the government pays Isibindi CYCWs but rolling the model out nationwide has led to payment delays. Because CYCWs are drawn from communities, many of which are disadvantaged, this salary gap can put CYCWs in dire financial straits. The lack of transport infrastructure in South Africa also means that CYCWs in rural communities often have to travel miles on foot, significantly eating into the amount of time CYCWs can spend with vulnerable children.
The Isibindi model has been adapted for use in Zambia and Zimbabwe. A number of other governments have already expressed interest.
South Africa’s 3.5 million orphaned children AIDS orphans and vulnerable children are to receive psychological and practical support in their own homes under an ambitious collaboration between the National Association of Child Care Workers (NACCW) and the Department for Social Development.
The Isibindi model of care trains unemployed community members to become accredited child and youth care workers to provide respite and capacity-building support in the homes of the nation’s most vulnerable children. Conceived in 2001 by the NACCW, the Isibindi model has been rolled out to over 320 sites in South Africa, employing around 6,700 youth carers, and serving in excess of 100,000 children. The project has, since 2013, found favour among the highest levels of government too: the Ministry for Social Development pays carers’ salaries and has committed to rolling out Isibindi to over 1,000 sites nationwide.
Isibindi workers help under-18s manage households in the absence of parents by sending caregivers to conduct home visits. Domestic tasks, cleaning, caregiving and supporting ill siblings and family members are all on the agenda. Above all, Isibindi aims for family preservation. Removing children from their homes often causes long-term trauma and increases services offered through South Africa’s stretched social services and welfare system. By supporting struggling families to stick together, Isibindi holistically restores communities ravaged by HIV/AIDS.
“Violence prevention is a crucial element of the project,” explains Sinah Moruane, UNICEF’s South African Child Protection Specialist. “Isibindi CYCWs go into children’s homes: they provide support to stop them turning to a life of violence, educate caregivers on child rearing, start dialogue and on violence against children, including on the adverse effects of violence on the behaviour of children, and are trained to recognize signs of abuse and refer children to social services and the police.” According to the NACCW, while Isibindi is a vital tool for keeping families together, the programs also play a critical role in protecting children from harm – since 2013, referrals by CYCWs have led to 2,410 children being removed from situations that had been endangering their well-being.
CYCWs are also trained to provide support to victims of sexual abuse in the community. A study conducted by the University of Cape Town found that on the residential care program for victims of sexual offences, the victims who have support from a child and youth care worker were provided better psychosocial support than the ones with no attachment to a CYCW.
Isibindi’s success in supporting children has yielded solid results: one quasi-experimental post-intervention trial shows ex-participants of Isibindi reporting higher self-esteem and problem-solving abilities, more family support and significantly lower HIV risk than control members. While orphans and vulnerable children are disproportionately likely to drop out of school, often to care for their siblings, some 70% of Isibindi participants graduated from high school.
The strength of the program, explains Moruane, is its flexibility: as a “social franchise”, the conventional issues faced by scaling a program nationwide by central government are lessened. Under the aegis of the NACCW, which regularly monitors progress and ensures accountability, local organisations own and implement the Isibindi model according to their context and capacities. Additional components are also incorporated where funding and capacity allow: specific programs target young women and girls, child caregivers or those with disabilities, while related initiatives include the Safe Park program to provide safe environments for children to play and income generation programs to provide tangible skills for lifelong development.
“The benefits of Isibindi are not limited to children alone,” says Moruane. Isibindi carers are equipped with the skills to become competent social care and youth workers, and receive a salary from local government. Unemployment in South Africa remains obstinately high: in the first quarter of 2017, unemployment rose to 27.7%, its highest rate since September 2003. Isibindi provides one method of government intervention in one of South Africa’s intractable economic issues.
Moruane stresses that the work is not over for Isibindi: “We are always trying to innovate and improve the model,” she explains. The next step is digitising the casework process. Because Isibindi intervenes in all stages of the life-cycle—from early childhood development and infancy to adolescence and young adulthood—plans are underway to build an app that would streamline case management. The Child Wellbeing Tracking Tool aims to cut down on the time spent filling out paperwork by CYCWs, and to allow monitoring by different health and social service professionals without long paper trails and lost information.
For now, however, scaling remains the priority so that, in Moruane’s words, “no child in South Africa is left behind.”
(Picture credit: Flickr/Randy OHC)