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‘Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families…’ — Psalm 68:5
Children were created to be in families. That is God’s design and, according to Psalm 68:5, His desire. Unfortunately, statistics show that this is not the reality for most children. With the number of orphaned and vulnerable children in Africa at a staggering high, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Thankfully there are many stories of hope, such as the story of Give a Child a Family (GFC) foster parent, Bajabulile Mbili.
Bajabulile always had a natural love for children — she and her late husband had two of their own. Her daughter is now in her late twenties, but her son sadly passed away when he was 17.
“I remember hearing people talk about how challenging it was to raise an orphan because they come with lots of demands, often having suffered at the hand of neglect or abuse,” she says. She, however, resolved to find out for herself. She was determined to one day open her home and care for a vulnerable child.
Challenges that impact children and families have been Give a Child a Family’s primary concern for nearly 30 years. Operating in the Ugu district in KwaZulu-Natal and in several countries in eastern and southern Africa, they offer child protection services and temporary safe care to vulnerable children. These are children who experience risks to their survival, protection and development as a result of poverty, abuse, neglect, exploitation, and lack of access to essential services. GCF offers an integrated suite of developmental social welfare services and support to build the resilience of children, families and communities.
Monica Woodhouse, GCF co-founder, recalls: ‘Our desire was to ensure that children didn’t get stuck in the system, so there was a continuous and persistent process with the department. We rejoiced when we were finally granted “shelter status” and not registered as a children’s home. Receiving “shelter status” was an immense breakthrough for us because it meant that children wouldn’t be committed to an institution long term. Instead, they would be able to be moved back into families — back home, to new families, or to extended families.”
Bajabulile found out about GCF through a relative whose grandchildren were staying at the temporary place of safety.
“I always knew that I wanted to foster children, but I didn’t know where to go or how to go about it. I never knew there was a place like GCF. I left my number and one day the social worker contacted me to arrange a home visit. After that, they invited me to attend a foster care training programme,” says Bajabulile.
She was surprised that she had to attend any training at all, after having raised two of her own children, but she soon started to understand the purpose behind it. GCF’s foster care training was specifically developed to prepare and equip persons like Bajabulile. The training helps potential foster parents understand the ins and outs of foster parenting including legal issues, some of the issues a foster child may struggle with, as well as tools that can be used in managing behaviour.
“I remember the day I received that call; I was so excited!” recalls Bajabulile. ‘The social workers came to my house and gave me all the information about the child, so that I could take time to think about whether I wanted to take her in. After talking with my family and praying about it, I said ‘yes’.”
The little girl was four-and-a-half years old when she went to stay with the Mbili family. She is now 11- years-old. “It’s going very well with us. In fact, it’s going so well that she told the magistrate recently that she wants to change her surname! I was so shocked!” laughs Bajabulile.
GCF explains that their programmes will focus increasingly on building the parenting and socio-economic capacity of families, partnering with social work professionals and providing training and support. The aim is to achieve a strong child protection society and to fulfill their vision of children in secure families, because it’s where they belong…
Find out more about Give a Child a Family at https://www.gcf.org.za.
Stories of Hope is brought to you by the Mergon Foundation, a resource partner to ministries who expand God’s Kingdom and bring hope and restoration to communities across Africa and the Middle East.
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