Caring for childen in uncertain times

There are a number of challenges specific to CYCC’s and other residential facilities such as old age homes, which have large numbers of residents and staff.

Infection in a residential facility instantly exposes hundreds, if not more people to the virus. In addition, specific to Child and Youth Care Centres, managing children with challenging behaviour, the breakdown of leave of absence placements, and managing children who abscond from the premises, add to the challenges of lockdown.

Based on trends across the world, it was apparent that a lockdown was imminent in South Africa, so we began a process of preparing for it. Preventative measures such as a handwashing campaign were put in place before the schools were closed. Bottles of sanitiser, masks and hand wash were purchased to ensure high standards of hygiene were observed across all departments.

The team had to decide if our children would be more or less vulnerable at the facility or with their families. A risk assessment was done with all 64 children and 22 children were sent home on a leave of absence (LOA).

A holiday programme was put in place for the 42 children remaining on the premises. Activities like sewing masks, online play therapy, music lessons and computer classes and games were included in the programme. A tuckshop was opened on the premises so that children could use their pocket money to purchase items such as airtime, sweets and chips.

All visits from mentors, volunteers, and sports coaches were suspended.

Consultations were held with each child to understand their knowledge of the pandemic as well as to correct any misconceptions. We also took care to explain the implications of a lockdown to them, as well as to offer support and discuss going home with those who could. We also made efforts to gain an understanding of children and staff with underlying conditions which make them vulnerable to COVID-19 and implement additional protective measures.

Netcare visited our premises prior to lockdown to brief the children and care staff about COVID-19. Three staff consultation sessions were held to develop an understanding of what staff perceptions of COVID-19 were, to decide on how to respond to the pandemic as a CYCC, and to find ways to address the perceived risk factors. A WhatsApp communication group was started for staff to be updated on any new developments within the organisation.

Caring for childen in uncertain times

To support the mental health of staff, our coaches and play therapist offered telephonic and online support to all staff who were in need. A range of essential goods were offered to staff on sale at the facility to avoid shopping from local supermarkets. Transport arrangements were made for staff to be transported to and from the facility. The supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is still a challenge due to the lack of available resources.

In addition, we are hoping to implement:

  • A quarantine/ isolation zone to be set up at JCH for children who abscond or return to us after their leave of absence;
  • Free testing for staff and children;
  • Continued updates fwith accurate information for staff;
  • Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff;
  • More effective communication from the Department of Education providing guidance on the gradual reintegration of children from LOA as well as return to schools;
  • A cost effective model of continuing care and remaining sustainable as an organisation;
  • Preparing for and understanding the worst case scenario and providing support to staff.
[ Posted 30 April 2020 ]

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