By USISIPHO BATYI
“Child protection should be a daily calling for all.”
This will be the driving force behind the vision of the newly appointed director for Child Welfare Grahamstown Martha Thompson. She and the organisation’s new social work manager, Nasiphi Matshaya, stepped into the organisation on Monday 2 November 2020.
Woineshet Bischoff has retired from her position as director after 18 years of service at Child Welfare Grahamstown and Kim Wright is also departing from Child Welfare after 13 years of service as a senior social worker and social work manager.
They both leave having made great contributions to the organisation and projects initiated during their time include the Ikhaya Losizo Cluster Foster Homes, alongside community pre-school Nompumelelo, and the Asibavikele national project.
Stepping in are very capable individuals who will continue with the excellent work going forward.
Thompson has experience as a social worker in Britain and ran Queenstown Child Welfare for many years. She worked at Child Welfare Grahamstown for four years before she moved to St Mary’s Development and Care Centre, where she worked as its manager until the end of October 2020.
“So, she comes with vast knowledge and experience of child welfare work,” noted Bischoff. “Grahamstown Child welfare will be in good hands and will continue to do its best with the support of the public.”
As she takes on her new position as director of Child Welfare, Thompson has many plans for her new role. One of her aims is to get back to statutory work and child protection. She is passionate about the latter and would like to make an effective change within the child protection systems.
“I believe that child protection should be a daily calling for all,” she said.
“We have a knee-jerk approach to child protection issues, rather than a proactive preventive and empowering approach,” she continued.
“I also want to empower social workers to realise the significant role they play in effecting change in the lives of people and society at large. Social work is an underrated profession and I want to advocate for my profession to get the recognition it deserves.”
To add to her plans, Thompson plans to establish an electronic reporting system for social workers, in order to better manage the overwhelming quantity of administrative work. She also plans to develop a monitoring and evaluation system that will measure the impact of psycho-social support to families and communities.
Matshaya says she plans to put all the knowledge and wisdom she learnt while working under Wright’s leadership into action.
“I have been here for 10 years, so I know how she does things. Kim has [trained]me all these past years,” she said.
She’s looking forward to supporting the work of other social workers.
“This post is exciting and nerve-racking,” she said. “The shoes that I am going to fill are too big: hopefully, they’ll eventually fit me,” she said. “The standard is high, but I am ready for the challenge.”
Wright said she would miss the staff very much.
“We have always had each other’s backs: you never feel like you are the only person working on a case,” she said. “My experience has been fantastic, it has been a unique and privileged experience working under Bischoff’s leadership.
“The Grahamstown community support has been amazing, the support we get from the people is unbelievable.
“My advice to the incoming manager would be you are never too old to learn, keep learning and talk to people, trust the community’s inherent knowledge and skills,” Wright said.
Bischoff said Wright would be missed for the hard work and high standard she has set in the social work services.
“I am also confident that Nasiphi Matshaya, who has trained under her, will continue to do the same. Matshaya is a product of Child Welfare, in that after finishing her four-year degree, she came to work for Child Welfare and has been with the organisation for 10 years.”
About Child Welfare Grahamstown
Located at 1 Coles Lane in Makhanda, Child Welfare Grahamstown is one of the 150 affiliates of Child Welfare South Africa. It operates as a non-Profit Organisation in the Makhanda area, Makana Municipality for the welfare of ‘children in need of care and protection’ as stipulated in the Children’s Act 38/2005. The organisation, established in 1917, is one of the first Child Welfare Societies in the country.
While affiliated to Child Welfare South Africa, the organisation is autonomous and is required to raise its own funding to run their programmes and services. The organisation receives a subsidy from the department, but it must cover salary shortfalls for its employees. With 16 staff members, Child Welfare Grahamstown currently caters for around 20000 children and families (directly and indirectly). Presently 370 children are placed legally through the court in foster homes, whereby social workers provide supervisory services and family re-unifications.
In addition to this statutory work and the work done at the pre-school and cluster foster homes at Joza, the organisation also runs prevention projects including the Child Protection Action Forum (CPAF), the Sun City After Care Programme, a teenage support group and a foster parent support group. These programmes assist in strengthening family units. 98% of their services are provided in historically disadvantaged communities, with staff and management members representing the very communities they serve. Therefore, the organisation as such qualifies for a BEE accreditation.