Experiences of caregivers caring for children with different special needs in a cluster foster care village in KwaZulu-Natal.
Kadungure, Tendai Patronellah.
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Cluster foster care schemes emerged in South Africa to cater for the growing numbers of children in need of care due to lack of non-relative prospective foster parents volunteering to take care of these children. This study focused on the Cluster Foster Care Village (CFCV) model, whereby NPOs provide houses or clusters on one premises for the recruited foster parents and foster children to live in. In a cluster foster care village, the caregivers end up caring for children from different backgrounds and with different needs including children with special needs. The caregivers are unique from other foster parents who have a choice of the children they want to foster. Few studies have investigated the experiences of such caregivers, hence this study’s focus was on the experiences of caregivers looking after children with different special needs in a cluster foster care village in KwaZulu Natal. The qualitative research approach and descriptive research design were adopted for this study, and twelve in-depth interviews were conducted with the caregivers. Systems theory and the bio-psycho-social model were used in the study to understand caregivers’ experiences holistically (emotional, cognitive, physical and social) as they function in different levels of the ecosystems (micro, mezzo and macro levels). The study identified five main themes in terms of the experiences of caregivers caring for children with special needs in a CFCV that included: The caregivers’ knowledge and understanding of the special needs; biopsychosocial experiences of the caregivers; caregivers’ training needs; workplace policies and challenges; coping mechanisms and support systems utilised by caregivers. This study concluded that caregivers faced numerous biopsychosocial challenges, workplace challenges and lacked support and training. Hence, the need for thorough preparation, training, and support for the caregivers to avoid compromising the quality of care to the children with special needs.