An estimated 2 000 children are abandoned annually

In South Africa, an estimated 2 000 children are abandoned annually, with the result that child care providers play a critical role in offering safe temporary shelter for hundreds of children each year.

Adoption is still viewed as the most permanent solution for abandoned children

According to Terryl Mathibedi, therapy team leader at Thusanani Children’s Foundation, every child has the right to be raised in a household in which they can experience the unconditional love of a family and outside of a family; and adoption is still viewed as the most permanent solution for abandoned children.

â??Despite the fact that adoption provides the best possible outcome for children, adoption rates in South Africa continue to decline, while the numbers of children entering the system are increasing,â? says Pam Wilson, Adoption Supervisor at Joâ??burg Child Welfare.

Children who enter the welfare system have usually already had a difficult start in life, the effects of which can have a long-term developmental or psychological impact in the future

â??For the past 12 years Thusanani Children’s Foundation has worked to provide an efficient and coordinated support service to help speed up the sluggish administrative process in adoption,â? says Mathibedi.

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Based in Gauteng, Thusanani works closely with welfare and adoption agencies such as Joâ??burg Child Welfare to support the adoption process through the provision of essential medical and occupational therapy assessments. These reports form a necessary part of the process as both the legal system and prospective parents require detailed medical and developmental information.

The first two years of a childâ??s life are critical in determining their future development

The experiences in the first two years of a childâ??s life are critical in determining their future development and potential. Spending extended periods of time in homes or institutions can place these vulnerable children at a greater disadvantage.

â??Thusanani aims to enhance these environments through providing information and practical ideas for stimulation to the staff and care givers and an increased understanding of the importance and the role of play in childrenâ??s development. Therapists screen the babies to identify those at risk of disability and delay, and provide therapy to reduce the long term consequences for the children,â? explains Mathibedi.

Assessments and reports provided by Thusanani help to provide the necessary information to assist in planning for long term placement.

â??Having a centralised medical facility at Thusanani has been invaluable. The more information we have on the child, the more we are able to make an informed decision about whether we are dealing with a healthy, normal or special needs child. Thusanani is held in very high regard with overseas partners in terms of the inter-country programmes and we frequently have social workers, doctors and the adopters themselves contacting us directly for clarification on various medical issues,â? explains Wilson.

â??From the available information we have for 2013, at least 300 children seen by Thusanani Children’s Foundation clinics were adopted. This is approximately 18 per cent of the 1 699 adoptions reported in South Africa for the same period,â? says Mathibedi.

About Thusanani Children’s Foundation

The Thusanani Childrens Foundation is a non-profit organisation founded in 2002.

It is a dedicated, multidisciplinary team of health professionals consisting of paediatricians, a speech-language therapist, occupational therapists and a psychologist.

The aim of the Foundation is to reduce the vulnerability of abandoned and orphaned children – newborns to six years old – living in residential care facilities across Gauteng, through their promotion of optimal health and development. Thusanani provides medical and developmental reports to social workers to support appropriate long term placement of these babies and children, thus helping to create brighter futures.

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