I am so appreciative of my opportunity to get to shadow the social workers at the Department of Social Development. The shadow opportunity was very well rounded and gave us highlights of the different programing that government social workers partake in. The first day we mostly stayed within the DSD facilities and talked to different supervisors about their programming. I was most intrigued about the community programming they have going on. The supervisor told us that they have an integrative and holistic approach as they work with other government departments to make sure that as many resources as possible are available to clients in need. With this, they run a lot of empowerment and life skills programs. While this holistic approach sounds ideal, I am curious as to how well the different government departments actually work together especially when finances become involved.
We also had the opportunity to talk to one of the foster care supervisors. It was refreshing to talk with her because she was very honest in sharing that they are under resourced and underfunded, and thus cannot implement all the programming they would like. She described that she often feels like she is not doing enough to help, but there’s not much she can do as they don’t have enough finances and are understaffed. This reminded me of some of the government agencies back at home. From talking with her it seems as if the reunification program of parents and childrens within the foster system is lacking and is what she wishes she had more resources to transform.
Along with talking to the foster care supervisor, we also had the opportunity to visit three different foster care settings. All of the women blew me away with their open hearts and determination to make a differences in these children’s lives. The woman who runs Rainbow of Hope has really worked hard to create the best possible situation for her foster children by getting outside sponsorship and raising money in creative ways so that the children get the best education. Walking away from these foster homes, I was impressed at how these women have dedicated their entire lives to these children. In the States I have never interacted with the foster care system, so it was interesting to see how it operates here and meet foster mothers.
We also had the opportunity to talk to court social workers and parole officers. Along with this we visited an old person’s home, a center for children with disabilities and an out patient rehab center that is located in Delft. All of these visits provided even more possibilities to learn social work programming in South Africa.
Overall, I have been really impressed with the experience I have had shadowing the social workers for DSD. Asanda, Yolanda and Lindi were a pleasure to shadow and learn from as they were willing to discuss any topic with us and set up locations visits to areas of interest. Truthfully, I wish I had an opportunity like this in the States to visit a bunch of different agencies and nonprofits to see the populations they are effecting. This experience has also made me think about how government social workers in South Africa compare to that of government social workers in America. I was also surprised to learn that so many social welfare services are written into the South African constitution and thus are trying to be administered to the people. I am left with many questions about South Africa versus the United States that I hope to research further.