Responses of child welfare organisations in KwaZulu-Natal to the challenges of HIV/AIDS.
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Child Welfare organisations in South Africa, including KwaZulu-Natal, are being faced with various challenges. Since 1994, after the first democratic elections in South Africa, a major shift toward the developmental welfare approach was advocated in the White Paper for Social Welfare (Department of Welfare, 1997), in the provision of welfare services and programmes. The South African AIDS epidemic shows no signs of halting. At present, South Africa has the largest number of individuals living with the virus in a single country, with an estimated 5.3 million infections (UNAIDS, 2005). KwaZulu-Natal is ranked fourth. South Africa is facing an unprecedented AIDS crisis. The increasing numbers of HIV infected adults and children are having a devastating impact on child welfare organisations. Child Welfare organisations were already under-resourced, overstretched and overburdened, even before the AIDS epidemic emerged. The consequences of apartheid, especially in terms of mass poverty and HIV/AIDS add a further problem on an already divided and somewhat 'abnormal' society. In addition, the shift from the welfarist tradition of social work practice to the developmental paradigm has serious implications on the functioning of child welfare organisations, which are unable to cope with the existing caseloads. Hence there is a need to address the challenges and for specialised services in the arena of HIV/AIDS. The purpose of this study was to investigate the responses of child welfare organisations in KwaZulu-Natal to the challenges of HIV/AIDS. The ecosystems perspective provided the theoretical framework within which the study was conducted. This perspective guided the selection of the study samples and the analysis of data. The study adopted a descriptive design, and the triangulated research paradigm incorporating both the quantitative and qualitative methods, as this was the most appropriate approach for the study's focus, objectives and research questions. By combining these two methods, a general overall audit was achieved in addition to obtaining rich, in-depth information. Fifty-five child welfare organisations in KwaZulu-Natal constituted the main sample for the quantitative study. Personal in-depth interviews were conducted with 5 senior social work personnel from the child welfare organisations. There were conclusive findings in this study that indicated that overall, child welfare organisations in the KwaZulu-Natal region are making concerted efforts to respond to the challenge of HIV/AIDS in the broad areas of policy implementation and modification, specific programmes for children, special facilities for children affected by HIV/AIDS, awareness and prevention programmes and community projects. However difficulties in these areas were also experienced in the specific areas of providing adequate care, support and counselling with regard to children and families infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, staff inadequacy and training and facilities for pre and post test counselling. Some of the factors that have been responsible for impeding the overall success can be attributed to: high staff turnover, high caseloads, burnout and stress, lack of adequate resources, inadequate funding, lack of government support, poverty and inefficiency in the social security system. Recommendations for further research and for policy and practice are detailed.