Family Care

Family Care

There are over 3,977 children in Residential Child Care Facilities (RCCFs) nationwide and SOSCVZ is the largest residential care facility with capacity for over 700 children. Globally, and in Zimbabwe, SOS Children’s Villages pioneered the concept of “Family Care”, a significant departure from dormitory style institutional care. Under the FC programme, children are clustered into families with an SOS mother. Biological siblings are always kept together. There are 45 families in the three Children’s Villages of Bulawayo, Harare, and Bindura.


The SOSCVZ Strategy 2030 and SOS Care Promise place emphasis on Alternative Care and Family Strengthening with the aim of achieving the greatest positive impact on the life of the Child. One way to do this is building the resilience of children and young people in preparation for reintegration into the community. There are several platforms for enabling children’s interaction with communities beyond the Village, specifically, fostering, preparation for independent living, and community integrated families.


Holiday Foster Programme

SOSCVZ has a holiday programme through which children in the village are afforded an opportunity to experience community life and enhance their life skills during school holidays. Children stay with a host family for two to three weeks during which sporadic monitoring visits are conducted by SOS mothers and co-workers to check on their welfare and progress. After the school holidays, feedback sessions are held separately with both host families and children on how the visit went and any lessons learnt. The feedback sessions sometimes provide valuable information on behavioural or social and academic challenges in the children for follow up work by SOS co-workers.


Preparation for Independent Living

Pre and post exit resilience building is provided in the form of psycho-social support and youth employability. Psychosocial support offered helps prevent physical, psychological, or social trauma, heal emotional markers in the traumatized child and repair/develop lost, underdeveloped or non-existent essential faculties. In turn, this contributes to building the resilience of young people before they are reintegrated into the community. 


In 2016-17 a research on Employability and Decent Work for Young People Leaving Care in Zimbabwe was conducted. The purpose of the research was to identify gaps in preparation for independent living provided to young people in care. As a follow up in 2018, focus will be on implementing youth employability programmes for young people exiting institutional care, in line with the recommendations made in the study commissioned. Youth employability programme currently comprise support through vocational skilling, career guidance, life skills, job readiness and financial literacy.
 

The Community Integrated Families Pilot

As an integral part of SOS Children’s Villages International’s Strategy 2030, SOSCVZ is piloting the Community Integrated Families project. The main objective is to improve child wellbeing outcomes in education, health, child safeguarding and life skills through greater exposure of children in residential care to the reality of life in the community. The initiative also aims at promoting de-institutionalisation through minimising institutional features associated with life in residential institutional care. The initial programme is targeting to move four families from the Children’s Village and integrate these into the community. 


In 2017, the DSW granted a certificate of registration through the parent ministry that cleared the way for the first SOS family from the Bindura Children’s Village to move into the community.
SOS Mother, Catherine Mushanawani and her five children were very excited by the prospect of life in the community. Apart from seeing this as an opportunity for the children to improve their socialisation skills, the children and their mother hoped that they would be able to build new relationships with the surrounding community. In July 2017, Catherine Mushanawani and her family moved into the community house. In line with promoting de-institutionalised living, the house was not SOS branded, neither was the surrounding community made aware that the family was from the Children’s Village.

Experiences in Community Integration: Catherine Mushanawani, SOS Mom, Bindura

I have been an SOS mother for the 23 years. In 2017, I had to learn to let go of the old and welcome the new – life in the community with my SOS family.
Currently, I have four children in the house – the fifth was reunified with the biological family recently. When our family was chosen to pilot the Community Integrated Families project, moving out of the Children’s Village and into the community was something we were excited about. We were getting out of the institutional boundary and as a family we were going to experience living in the community.
However, we were also a bit apprehensive. I will not lie – even I was a bit worried though I didn’t show the kids. I had grown used to the comfort of having the other SOS mothers close by – for 23 years these women had been my closest friends. Anytime I needed something, it was easy to turn to any one of them. Moving into the community would mean that I would have to become a bit more independent. I would also have to learn to form new relationships and make new friends.


Before we moved in, we would occasionally come to the house to prepare for our eventual move. Interestingly, young children can be quite adaptable.  The little kids made friends with the neighbour’s children. By the time we moved, they already knew their neighbours so well that the move was relatively comfortable for them. However, the older children struggled a bit. One of my sons, Richard*, is now in Form 4. For him, leaving the village was hard. He felt that all his friends were there and he was worried about having to make new friends. Sometimes after school, Richard would go back to the Children’s Village. The mothers were good in keeping an eye out so that I wouldn’t worry – they would call me and tell me where Richard was especially if it was approaching evening.Though we had initially received counselling to help us cope with the move, Richard needed a little more help. As a mother, I sat down with Richard and counselled him. Though it took time, he eventually adjusted to the new life and has even made new friends.

Over the past year, our lives have changed drastically – but for the good. As a mother, I can see that I have grown. I am more confident, and more appreciative of all the ups and downs of community life.
My children have become more responsible – they are broadening their socialisation skills through their interaction with other children. They are more responsible in doing their chores because they mirror the behaviour of other children they see when they visit their homes. As a family, we have grown closer. I think the process of having to leave our comfort zone and face some uncertainty was good for us – we learned to rely on each more and this deepened the bonds of trust and love amongst us. Indeed, we have learned that family is family, even if you are living in the village or in the community – all we have to do is embrace the change together and everything eventually works out.

Ends//

 

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