How Supporting Families Supports the Economy

Life right now is hard. The petrol price keeps increasing. The cost of cooking oil is increasing. Interest rates keep going up, not to mention the electricity crisis that we too pay exorbitant fees for in this country. 

It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed or anxious about the state of our country and our economy. For the average working person, life is getting more challenging. And those  who are able, and have the opportunity, are leaving for better prospects and living conditions where they can find them, hoping for an improvement in their quality of life. 

But what about those who are not working? What about those who don’t have the opportunity to leave? We are hearing more and more stories of those who are leaving their jobs because the cost of travelling to their workplace is greater than their current salary. 

This deepening economic crisis is profoundly impacting children, youth and families. Its effects are rippling through the multiple contexts in which children and youth find themselves. We see how stressors such as job loss, loss of homes, or loss in family savings place strain on parental relationships and on the family as a whole.

For families living in resource-poor communities, this crisis is more severe, with basic needs such as food security, healthcare and shelter going unmet. We saw this clearly during the first year of the pandemic. Research has shown that higher poverty rates are correlated witho increased rates of family conflict, child neglect and abuse, and intimate partner violence. Recently in South Africa, we have seen a reported   rise in  murder rates, gender-based violence and senseless tavern shootings. 

On a broader level, the worsening economy can impact funds for schools, civil society organisations and health care community services, which are seeing their budgets tighten when their services are needed the most by our nation’s children, youth and families.

Children and youth are particularly vulnerable as they undergo critical developmental transitions. For example, graduating from high school, adolescents at this stage may be forced to postpone their plans for higher education and instead seek increasingly scarce jobs in order to contribute to the household economy. All of these changes can have profound and lasting effects on the mental health of our country’s children and youth, often causing problems in terms of anxiety, lowered self-esteem and other emotional or behavioural difficulties.

I am sure reading this, you might be asking yourself, “okay, but how am I part of the solution? Surely it is government and corporations who are most responsible for making the change needed, not me.” Yes, we need to hold the government and the private sector to account, but there are also impactful things that we can do,as individuals, to support families, to uplift children and to make a difference in the day-to-day lives of others. 

Think about your sphere of influence, where can you assist the most? Is it helping cover the costs of transport for your domestic worker, knowing that most South Africans spend more than 25% of their salary on transport especially those living on the outskirts of the city. Do you have time to volunteer? Civil society organisations, need donations,yes, but also have other needs, should that be light admin, or assisting with making food or sandwiches. Perhaps you have specific skills like graphic design or marketing that could make a difference in that organisation’s impact. Do you work for a corporation that has a CSI committee? Are they focused on deep impact and building of society? Get involved in understanding who and why you support those organisations. Can you or your workplace offer internships or apprenticeship programmes to help youth gain work experience?

As South Africans we have seen our country come together in times of need, organizing soup kitchens in our communities, cleaning up, and helping rebuild businesses in Kwazulu-Natal. The very foundation of our country is cemented in unity, community and the spirit of Ubuntu. And now we need this more than ever.

Research has shown that when given the appropriate tools for positive parenting, prevention of child abuse,neglect, and the fostering of resilience- children, youth and families can more effectively cope with the stress that this economic downturn has produced. But families need more. As an organization whose sole purpose is to see families thrive, we strongly advocate for the universal income grant. We advocate for it because we know that families that receive the grant are better able to access food,regular health care, and to send their children to school. They’re also less likely to suffer from debilitating stress, which can lead to violence and poor mental health.

The universal income grant also helps to protect the  dignity of all families, particularly, those that need it the most. Families get to decide for themselves how they will use the money, and what is important for them in order to survive. It allows families and children to break-free from the poverty trap as they can take more strategic risks, knowing that their basic needs are met. We have seen the scientific data reflected in the work that we do with families who are in need of support, not only psychologically but also financially. When we strengthen and support families with both financial aid and parental tools we help foster resilience amongst families as well as support the economy. It helps to fill jobs today and it helps to prepare children and youth for their future. 

To know more, contact

Written by Danielle Moosajie

Dear John (Steenhuisen)

Dear Mr. John Steenhuisen,

3 weeks ago we saw you travel overseas to see the impact of the war in the Ukraine and you received private funding which enabled you to do so.  War anywhere is horrific. But do you know that we have our own wars here in South Africa. Do you know about the many children who are abused? Who witness continuous violence? Children, particularly on the Cape Flats who run towards gun fire rather than away? Do you know about this? Or have the cries of our people fallen on deaf ears?

I am felt compelled to write to you as we are in Child Protection Week reflecting on the very real reality of children at-risk, children who experience complex trauma daily, children who are stuck in a system that does not work for them. You might ask why I chose to engage with you, well, honestly, wherever I look, I see signage about living in the “city that works for you” and live in a city that is led by your political party. 

I am deeply saddened by the fact that just 3 weeks ago, a school called hysterically as they lost an 18 year old learner- a son, a brother, a friend, a matriculant.  It was a deeply painful session, as kids from Grade 10 – 12 were struggling with the loss of their friend. A friend who was simply walking to his girlfriend, and never reached her.  Things 18 year olds do over weekends. Fall in love and want to spend time with those that make their hearts flutter.

Last week as I left for work I was told to avoid driving on a different street because there had been acts of violence.  Violence that led to 5 people being shot during peak hour time as people were heading to work.  It was somewhat surreal to see an automatic weapon being passed around like a nerf gun in footage that went viral and yet listening to the sounds of the shots on the streets and fields where children play, and families travel to work, or in search of work.

This evening, as my grade 1 falls asleep quietly next to me, while I finish off my work from the day, a notification pops up telling me that grade 1s at a school in Cape Town (where the city works for you), educators had instructed the learners to put their heads on the desks while parents and caregivers waited to collect them – why, you may ask? because shots were fired as the school gates were opened. I am deeply grateful that no one was shot in this process.

So while your Ukraine visit occurred and the photos taken were contested and went viral.  A trip that while not funded by tax-payers’ money, could have been used to understand and support the end to our war right in your city. Money which could have been used to support local organisations helping young adults exit gangs and prevent young kids entering gangs, community soup kitchens, our local schools and for ways the City, government, organisations and communities can work well together in understanding the complexities of this war.

A war that while not overtly targets children, impacts every aspect of their lives.

A war that stops them from going to school. A war that stops support from being able to reach school. A war that means that there aren’t enough schools or seats and that extra murals aren’t offered equally in a nation where we believe that the rights of children includes access to good enough education – how do educators meet the needs of all the children in a classroom where there aren’t enough seats?

A war that as a part of a bigger structural system complicates the fact that for every 3 children needing an educational psych assessment and support, there is only 1 opportunity available for this to happen.

A war that means that school completion is already under threat and threatened, threatens it more. A war that has foot soldiers, literally as young as 11 years old taking up arms.

A war that is within our own borders and our own city.  One in which the army, police and law enforcement are called in when the death rate is too high or we are close to elections – or so it seems really.

When we do we ask the questions of what allows this war to prevail and persist?

When do we prioritize the wellbeing of children in a city where too often as gang violence or rape or murder become part of their story?

It’s time we sat around a table not looking at plasters or band aids, but with eyes looking at the different layers fueling this war: the silos in which systems work, the lack of integrated public-private strategy, the need for local South African contextual interventions and the opportunities to create a different experience. 

We need to deal with this war.  Children in Manenberg, Gugulethu and Lavender Hill and so many more areas need to know, that their lives are not more, or less important than those in Ukraine.

As someone who wished to see the impact of war, we invite you to come and listen to what we have seen, experienced and learnt from the families we have worked with and to listen to the stories we can share of resilience as well as loss. What will it take for the children living in this war, of poverty and violence to be seen as worthy of long term and sustainable change?

How do we protect them? Let’s talk.

Their lives matter – we need the systems and power spaces to let them know this.

Written by Alexa Russell Matthews

Children, Church & the Law

Are places of faith – our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples – safe for our children and families in South Africa? Headlines where priests, pastors or leaders who have exploited young men and women, boys and girls under their care aren’t unfamiliar – yet the question we need to ask is what has permitted this to continue too often in the name of healing, wholeness and faith?


Hotspots of Violence or Hotspots of Poverty?

Hotspots, Social Work and Systems

In the last month a community known for gang violence has experienced a fresh gang war.  Ceasefire has been declared but members of the community will tell you that this is not the same as peace.  Depending on where you live in this community, determined whether or not you could go to school, your parents or caregivers could access transport to work as well as determined the level of heightened alertness and awareness that people are living with. 


Loving My Neighbour in Unequal Times

February is known for red hearts, chocolates and roses. In 2022 it’s also the month of little for many after the expenses of January are (not always) accounted for.  Just yesterday my 6 year old heard me organising lunch packs for an Arise group and in response to his asking why, I mentioned that it was to ensure that there weren’t hungry people.  His reply was, “Mama, you can make sandwiches until I am an adult and there will still not be enough food”.


Let’s Talk About the 750 000 Children Who Dropped Out of School Last Year

We have just celebrated the 2021 matrics who have passed and made it through one of the toughest years of education. The matrics of 2020 and 2021 deserve the highest praise, making it through such unpredictable years, and yet as we see the smiles and newspaper articles discussing the matriculants and pass rates, I can’t help to think about the reported 750 000 children who have dropped out of school.

Yes, you’ve read that right. It is estimated that over 750 000 school children have dropped out of schools since the pandemic and yet, we have heard nothing about how to get them back into the classroom. I was told in a meeting that there is nothing we can do and we must count that generation as a loss. I seethed just from the very thought that we have not included these kids in any type of intervention so that they can have a future. Furthermore, that nobody is thinking of the long-term consequence of nearly a million children who will one day have their own families to support, not having an education and feeding into the system of poverty and social ills. What’s worse is that this is all preventable.


Results of Arise’s Survey for Adoptive + Foster Parents

November is World Adoption Month.  A month committed to exploring adoption.  As Angela Tucker from The Adopted Life says repeatedly, adoption is nuanced.  In an ideal world, no children would need to be considered for alternative care – whether temporary (safe care or foster care), or permanently (adoption). While we work towards strengthening families, we know that we aren’t in this ideal world and so our energy is focused on strengthening existing families – regardless of how they are formed, as well as future families.

For World Adoption Month 2021, Arise sought to commit to doing what we repeatedly hear from people who have been in care – whether foster or adoption – which is identifying what would be helpful in supporting children’s families so that the children in care can thrive.  To paraphrase a number of adult adoptees “Parents need to do the work”. We did an informal anonymous online survey and had 114 participants.  We want to provide an overview of the responses received for you to consider as you listen and lean into what we are hearing so that you know what to advocate for in the spaces where you have influence! 

Who responded? Adoptive parents, Foster parents, parents caring for children in temporary safe care, and parents who are caring for children who aren’t born to them and have no legal care order for, through informal arrangements.  80% of the respondents had children 9 years and younger, with 48% of all respondents having children 6 years younger in their care.

What were the primary reasons that children were placed in care? As was to be expected due the majority of respondents being adoptive parents, 68 % were due to an adoption plan being made, while 15% was due to direct social work intervention. 31/114 respondents cited parental abandonment as the reason that their children joined them.  Only 11/114 respondents stated that children were said to be placed as a known consequence of teen pregnancy.  Private social workers (20%), Private agencies (69%) and government organizations (11%) were responsible for the processes and experiences when it came to adoptive families.

Did you know? The biggest concern parents identified in their their children was the struggle with anxiety. Evidenced based research indicates that behaviour, learning and emotional regulation are all impacted by anxiety. The experience and feedback given by parents was that this concern was complicated by the fact that there was a lack of adoption competent professionals, with specific reference to understanding adoption dynamics.  As such, some of the interventions ended up harming rather than helping children and families:  well intended but damaging in their impact.

Post placement support by the social workers was understood as the home visits and telephone calls to ‘check in’ by the majority of respondents. Respondents in the Foster Care system noted that there had been no post placement support. Additional post placement support for children as well as parents who wanted to access support was impacted by a lack of access to appropriate resources, as well as financial constraints. The details of life story work elicited a range of responses, with an overwhelming sense that parents would like to have more documented information as well as where possible, openness in being able to ask questions as their children grow and ask questions. Some respondents did reflect a sense of mistrust in the information that they were giving, providing reasons for this too. 

The support that parents seek includes, but is not exclusive to the following:

  • Parenting skills for children whose starting point is before you (regardless of age when meeting them)
  • Children’s life story work (including deeper and documented information as opposed to verbal information)
  • Understanding alternate care (Foster/ Adoption) dynamics and processes.
  • Increased access to information for families whose diversity includes race, gender and responding to the questions that are asked by their children.

A recurring theme in response to the different sections within the survey revealed a mistrust of social workers professional insights when it came to the needs to children’s psychosocial needs.  Respondents felt that much of the work and learning that they had acquired was dependent on their ability to access information and support, rather than social workers specifically imparting information and skills as part of the preparation process. One respondent noted that this wasn’t specific to social workers only, but across multiple sectors where there is a lack of inclusivity and understanding with regards to adoption.

78% of respondents stated that there was insufficient support for families in South Africa, whose children joined them through adoption or foster care.

We are listening, leaning into these challenges as Arise and practically exploring how to advocate for children and their families in response – through this survey as well as the evaluations and feedback given throughout 2021.  As we reflect on the broad outcomes of this survey, we recognize that professionals as well as parents and caregivers need extra support and upskilling in seeing children through lenses which see the fullness of the children and their stories.  We recognize that this is a small snapshot of a much larger cohort of people, but also acknowledge that it affirms the anecdotal evidence that has happened in conversations, during Arise’s On the Couch evenings as well as in the Q&A’s that happen during our workshops and events.

In 2022, we plan to engage and offer professional workshops to offer learning opportunities that will upskill professionals and as a direct and positive consequence, impact families and children. Thank you to everyone who took the time to participate – thriving children and thriving families need to be supported.  We press on with this as the goal!

Survey results summarised by Alexa Russell Matthews

Does my vote count?

If you are anything like me, I have been asking that a lot these past few months – who do I vote for? Who can I trust to get the job done? Which of the two or three or four evils do I cast my ballot against? So I decided that for the first time since I came of age, I will not vote. I will not be put into a corner and forced to vote for parties who make empty promises; who serve only themselves, who steal from those very people they are elected to serve or who only serve the rich, so that the system works for them.

But just a few hours ago, I was sitting in my office having a meeting with a teammate when we heard gunshots for at least 15 seconds.  This was followed by screaming coming from down the road. I jumped up from my chair and saw people running and panicked. A picture in my head that I can’t erase is of a grandfather with his grandchild in a pram and a toddler next to them, running down the road for safety. Some people running away from the gun shots and some running towards. Young men running with excitement to get involved and the vulnerable, scared and running for their lives. I saw my team shaking in fear and our minds trying to figure out what had just happened and were we all okay.

You see, every morning when we drive or walk into work, there is a long queue of about 50 to 60 people waiting for their SASSA grants at the post office. At first, I have been concerned about Covid infections from the long queues, but lately I have noticed more and more people lining up earlier and earlier. This has been going on since the Covid Relief Grant was first issued. We have seen more and more children drop out of school in the community; graffiti painting our walls with signs of old and new gangs forming; people sitting on corners; clients begging for food and petty crimes increasing around our neighbourhood.

The hypocrisy of the shooting event earlier today was that just a few minutes before we had a parade going down the road from a certain political party, trying to get the community to vote for them so that they can change the lives. But when the incident happened it was silent; no parade, no showing up, no one dancing and walking the street promising that voting for them will change their lives.

The reality is that our country is a mess. Our youth unemployment has increased to unheard of highs; we have over 700 000 children who have dropped out of school since the 2020 lockdown; and I live in a city where there is increased inequality and a governing party who chooses to ignore systemic racism and to work to close the gaps of inequality. We see daily corruption on all levels of government and civil society, children falling through the cracks in our systems, a growing mental health crisis, a poor Covid vaccination strategy and the list goes on.

So, I have decided that I will vote. But I am not voting for the party who I think I can get behind. No. I am voting strategically this year. I will be voting so that my vote helps to strengthen our democratic right to receive responsive governance in my municipality. You see, me choosing not to vote gives politicians’ power, those who think they have the vote in the bag.  And I will not allow politicians to think we are puppets, but rather make them work to stay in power, to ensure that I can see the results particularly in our marginalized communities. Unfortunately, competitive politics is the only way we can sustain our democracy, though I do think we need to rewrite our political system but that’s another blog for another day.

I refuse to give up on our country. I believe that we still have so much to offer and despite the darkness that fell over me today, I will cast my vote on the 1st of November, and I hope you do too. 

Written by Danielle Moosajie, Arise Director

Why Does Heritage Matter?

Heritage Day is fast approaching.  Each year we see the braai day specials appearing, and while a good braai is definitely something that is inherently South African, the 24th of September it’s not only National Braai Day but more importantly National Heritage Day. As we said on our recent podcast, how do we keep the fires lit, for those grills we cook on and for those reflecting on our South African Heritage?


Are Women Worthy?

Another senseless, brutal murder of a young South African woman, Nosicelo Mtebeni (23 years old); over 10 000 rape cases reported between April and June of this year alone with more than half of them committed within the home; and over 15 000 domestic violence cases reported in the past year. Though women have come so far in South Africa, many remain marginalised from the economic and social mainstream and face a constant threat of violence and abuse.