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Meet Lisa ...

“My name is Lisa. I am 9 years old.

Elizabeth and I stay in the youth care centre (children’s home). Elizabeth is my doll. She always wanted to have a little girl as her mother. So, when I came to stay at the centre (children’s home) she was very happy. She was lying on my bed and waiting for me.

At the beginning I used to cry a lot, then Elizabeth would also cry. We were scared, because we did not know anybody. When it became dark, I was also afraid that someone would come into my room.

Now we have been here for more than a year. I don't want to stay anywhere else. Aunt Sophy looks after Elizabeth and me.

I don't know where my father is. Actually, I can't even remember him anymore. My mother and the man with whom she stays, sometimes come to visit me. I don't go to visit them - I'm very glad about that, because now the man can't come to me when my mother's asleep. My mother says that she doesn't drink anymore, but I'm not so sure about that, because sometimes when she comes to visit, she talks very strangely.

Elizabeth and I are very happy here.

A child and youth care centre is registered as a children's home at the Department of Social Development. More than 6 children, who have been found in need of care by the Children's Court, are taken care of. The main reasons for the removal of children are maltreatment, molestation, material need, death of the parents or abandonment by the parents.

The Free State is one of 9 provinces in South Africa. There are 4 cities, namely Bloemfontein, Welkom, Sasolburg and Qwa Qwa in the province. There are quite a number of towns, but it is mainly a rural farming community. A few industries and mines exist.

According to the most recent census figures, we have 980 000 children under the age of 18 years in the province. In general, it is not going well with our children.

  • More than 42% of the households do not have a fixed income, whilst 32,5% live below the bread line.

  • According to UNICEF, 25% of all children will be orphans in 4 year's time, due to the occurrence of HIV/Aids.

  • It is estimated that one out of every three little girls is molested.

  • An alarming tendency is the fact that an increasing number of children are being abandoned by their parents.

Many children experience intense feelings of rejections, together with the struggle to provide for their basic needs. Children get left behind in their school work, leave school and become involved in crime and especially theft.

The social worker who worked with Lisa's mother, approached the child and youth care centre beforehand, and arranged for her admittance. The day of the children's court case, the social worker and Lisa's mother took her to the centre. The social worker of the centre and the child care worker admitted her. They showed her mother where Lisa's room was, gave her the telephone number of the centre and a pamphlet with the house-rules, e.g. when she might visit Lisa.

Lisa was taken to her room and saw that Elizabeth was lying on her bed. She immediately loved the doll and the child care worker told her that it was hers alone. She explained to Lisa how matters were done in the centre and what was expected of her. She showed Lisa where her flat was, told her that she was welcome to come to her at any time if she was afraid or heart-sore.

Lisa did not go to school the following day, she was taken to a doctor and the social worker. The child care worker and Lisa looked at her clothes and she was given the necessary clothes. Lisa had never had so many clothes before. Some of the clothes were completely new, such as underclothes and shoes. Some had been used, such as school clothes and track-suites. Lisa found it very difficult to adjust to the routine of the centre. As time passed it gave her a feeling of security, since she knew what to expect. She also had to learn many new things, e.g. how to eat with a knife and fork, wash dishes, clean her shoes, etc.

After a month at the centre she attended a MTT (Multi Therapeutic Team discussion). At the beginning she was to afraid to say a word. Her mother, teacher, social worker, psychologist and child care worker were present. They all spoke to her and explained that they were doing an assessment. It was quite enjoyable to feel so important, with the grown-ups asking her what she thought and how she felt. She was able to tell them that she wanted to stay on in the centre.

The team set out an individual development programme and care plan for her. Everybody was then aware that Lisa would follow the normal development programme, but that she would also be involved in a special programme for little girls who had been molested. Lisa's mother told them to which church she belonged and Lisa would be going to church with the other children every Sunday, although she cannot remember ever being in a church. She was also given her own Bible and taught to pray. The children sing every evening at family devotions and she enjoys this very much.

She remained in her old school, but now regularly does her homework. There is study time at the centre every day. After a while Lisa realised that she was not as stupid as she had always thought. She also draws very well and received crayons and a special drawing book from her child care worker.

In the beginning her mother and the man with whom she was living, regularly came to visit her. Later on her mother practically never came. The social worker explained to her that the man had lost his job. Lisa realised that some of the children have holiday parents. She then asked the social worker to try and find people who would also be "for her own". She will now be going to "her own" people for the first time during the holidays. Lisa is no longer the skinny little girl with the uncared-for hair and dirty, bitten nails. She has a snow-white smile in a little round face. Her eyes shine and she looks steadfastly at you.