An evaluation of a group therapy programme for vulnerable children.
HIV/AIDS is the biggest challenge facing humankind today and can no longer be compared to other health disasters. One of the greatest challenges it presents is that of nurturing healthy children to become competent, adaptive adults despite the numerous negative effects of the pandemic. Of concern is the lack of interventions that address the psychosocial needs of children affected by HIV/AIDS, poverty and violence. The present research study aims to evaluate a group therapy programme that has been developed to address this lack. The therapy programme used in this study is embedded in Bronfenbrenner's (1979) ecological model, which focuses on the interaction between person and environment. The model proposes that this interaction is two directional and reciprocal. It also draws on the literature concerning risk and resilience in children, which aims to understand personal, familial and social factors that create and sustain resilience in children. Thus, the programme aims to intervene on many levels and to give the children the opportunity to deal with and gain mastery over their past experiences and feelings. In addition, it aims to develop resilience, self-esteem and internal coping resources and enables them to access external support systems in the future. In order to evaluate the programme, a sample of 43 vulnerable children was drawn from a peri-urban community in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. The sample was randomly divided into a control group and two experimental groups, that later merged into one experimental group. Pre-test data was collected from all the participants in the form of a questionnaire consisting of 4 quantitative tools: the Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children (TSCC), the Culture Free Self Esteem Inventory (CFSEI), the Reynolds Child Depression Scale (RCDS) and a Social Support Scale (SSS). The group therapy programme, consisting of 15 sessions was then run with the experimental group. The control group engaged in 15 sessions involving games, singing, III drawing and other activities. Post-test data using the same questionnaire was collected from all the participants. The data was analysed quantitatively. No statistically significant differences were noted between any of the overall pre- and post-test data, except that of the TSCC. The graphical representations of the results showed a reduction in trauma symptoms and depression, and a raise in self-esteem, however the p-values were not significant. This is thought to be the result of the small sample size. The result also indicated that the CFSEI cannot be considered a reliable tool in this study. This study emphasises the need for further research in the field of vulnerable children in South Africa and the development, implementation and evaluation of interventions for this subgroup.
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