Resourceful Young Children

Resourceful Young Children
Learning Brief


Ekukhanyeni Relief Project

Child Support & Foster Care Grants – Let’s re-think for impoverished communities

Category: Resourceful Young Children | Comprehensive ECD package | 14 August, 2013 - 20:00

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The Ekukhanyeni Relief Project serves the needs of vulnerable children and families in the Johannesburg region. Our goal is to reduce poverty and food insecurity in its beneficiary communities and to provide effective early childhood care and education services to the children and adult-support networks in an integrated and holistic manner. We have been operational for over 7 years.

When the DGMT first requested us to assist families and guardians of our beneficiary children to access child support or foster care grants, we were hesitant. This was not the first time we had considered grant intervention, but our experience with the grants system taught us that it was overly complicated and that there was a large misuse of grants within our beneficiary community.

LESSONS LEARNT ABOUT THE GRANT SYSTEM

Through our experience working in targeted areas of Johannesburg we uncovered various factors that complicated the work of any non-profit/charity/care-organisation trying to help families access Child Support and Foster Care Grants:

Grant applications take up lots of time that could be spent on other productive services and activities

  • Would-be beneficiaries of the grants show a deep lack of trust and unwillingness to divulge personal circumstances and information necessary to apply for the grants (This adds to the burden of the care worker or social worker);
  • Collecting the paperwork such as identity documents and birth certificates was a source of delay and extra effort for our team;
  • A lack of funds to pay for transport to the social grant offices and Home Affairs became an issue for applicants and our team.

Social welfare applications are not our organization’s priority or service speciality

  • Being a focus area that we had little experience in, we were still learning the ropes by the end of the funding period – even with a Social Auxiliary Worker. We under-budgeted because we did not realize the financial implications of such an intervention.
  • Having no previous experience in this field, we took on more than we could handle. Since we were serving many children and their families, as well as 14 crèches with over 800 children, we required sufficient funds for a dedicated staff member and adequate project administration support in order to carry out this specific project goal. This would have been a very large financial and administrative burden for us.

Grants can sometimes perpetuate poverty lifestyles that we are trying to overcome

  • Recipients of grants often have low levels of literacy, are unemployed, and live in poverty, which perpetuates a lack of self-motivation and a lack of hope (something that trickles down to their children).
  • We found that some family members fought over children to obtain foster care grants and had no interest in the welfare of the childen. Some primary caregivers who no longer had the children in their care were still accessing grants but failed to use the money for the children's benefit.
  • We observed a large misuse of grants where the funds are not benefiting the child and were used for non-essentials, or to feed substance abuse like alcohol or drugs.

SO WHAT FOR US?

After careful examination of our project goals, objectives, and funds, as well as a reflexive look at how grants were used in our beneficiary communities we decided against helping families apply for and access social welfare grants. We also decided not to go that route in the future so as not to perpetuate a growing tendency to depend on welfare grants.

We are uncertain whether this is an intervention area that we would continue supporting. Although it is heart breaking to witness so many children suffering as a result of poverty there is too much grant misuse for us to justify any further effort to help families obtain them. In the future, if we were to delve into it without an overhaul and rethink from government, we would want to partner with Home Affairs and SASSA to conduct formal site visits to our marginalised community on a regular basis to raise awareness with us and to overcome the complex factors outlined above.

OPEN DISCUSSION

We do not question the benefit of such grants and the invaluable contribution they can make to alleviating poverty and to helping the recipients thereof – especially vulnerable children. Indeed, social grants are one of the many tools used to ensure that people faced with the challenges of poverty and marginalisation have some financial means to live on. However we believe that grants must be used in the manner for which they were intended. We also suggest that government agencies and non-profits alike must take an in-depth look at ways to overcome the lassitude and low motivation levels to help oneself that often prevails amongst grant recipients.

It seems like we must re-think child support and foster care grants and how they are made available to impoverished communities. Perhaps a more holistic approach and understanding to grants and how they link to poverty and unemployment should be considered. We could also consider adopting accompanying programmes to help the grant recipients alleviate their poverty in their own creative and innovative ways. With regards to the misuse of grants, perhaps a new system could be rethought. One suggestion is that grants be made “in-kind” or as vouchers for food, clothing, or for a child’s attendance at particular ECD Centres or schools.  Welfare grants that are administered need to be more closely regulated and monitored to ensure better compliance and use of the grants for intended purposes. 

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Many non-profits and other care agencies devote time, effort and human resources to helping their target audience apply for grants. Unless this service is a core objective of the organisation the energy could be distracting from fulfilling other vital functions that better serve these families and individuals in need. The Ekukhanyeni Relief Project suggests that we continue an open and thoughtful discussion about how grant applications take up lots of time that could be spent on other productive services and activities; distract from an organization’s core objective or service speciality; and perpetuate poverty lifestyles that we are trying to overcome.


Plot 79 Mimosa Street, Midrand, Gauteng South Africa


 (011) 794 1027


 www.ekukhanyeni.org

In Short

The Ekukhanyeni Relief Project has initiated an open discussion about the how Nonprofits approach their role of helping families apply for Child Support and Foster Care Grants. This brief begins the conversation – given Ekukhanyeni’s past experience with the grant system. Individuals from similar organizations are encouraged to give their feedback and thoughts on this platform. Let the conversation begin!


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