Experiencing social work interventions: understanding the perspectives of caregivers labelled neglectful in a selected local community, KwaZulu-Natal.
Mqadi, Zinhle Tracey.
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The problem of child neglect in South Africa remains complex in terms of causes, forms, and required interventions. In the process of rendering services, including sometimes removing children from their homes, some caregivers or parents have been labelled as ‘neglectful’ by their social workers either ‘wilfully’ or ‘circumstantially’, or both. Caregivers were seen as neglecting children within the domains of their home. However, the nature of the relationship between social workers and their service users, the focus of interventions has been on the ‘best interest of the child’, and the large number of cases that social workers respond to on a daily basis; the perspectives of the caregivers themselves are often neglected. Therefore, the aim of this study was to understand the lived experiences of the participants labelled neglectful by their social workers, at the time of social work intervention. Caregivers were seen/observed as neglecting children at home. However, considering the researchers years of experience, because of the nature of the relationship between social workers and their service users, the focus of interventions has been on the ‘best interest of the child’. As opposed to focusing on the perspectives of caregivers themselves, for being labelled neglectful by their social workers The qualitative research approach and descriptive research design were adopted for this study, and six in-depth interviews were conducted with the caregivers. The study identified four main themes in terms of: Understanding the perspectives of caregivers labelled neglectful. These include; Participants’ Understanding of Neglect, Labels and reasons given for why participants were labelled as neglectful, Evaluation of social worker/client relationship and Evaluation of Social Work Interventions. This study concluded that caregivers faced numerous challenges when dealing with parents, workplace challenges and lacked support and training. Hence, a national response is required in order to solve the problem of child neglect and to present the impact of neglect in South Africa. This is because child neglect is on the increase due to psychosocial challenges experienced by families. In addition, more social workers should be deployed in communities to reach individuals, children and families to address child neglect in society at large. This is in order to increase awareness campaigns on child neglect, so that society can better understand this phenomenon from a legal and social welfare perspective.