The nature and extent of child care problems at the Department of Defence : Area Military Health Unit North West
Moreki, Motlatsing Suzan
MetadataShow full item record
Military Social Work (MilSW) is occupational in nature and is aimed at providing social work services for soldiers and their families to help them deal with their psychosocial problems effectively. According to the statistics on various psychosocial problems addressed by Military Social Work Officers (MSWOs) at AMHU NW, child protection problems – referred to as child care issues – rated second highest on casework interventions for the year 2016. This increase in child care issues and their variety and complexities has left MSWOs overwhelmed with how best to address them under occupational social work as they seek to define their role in the field of child protection. Purpose of the study: To explore the nature and extent of child care problems at the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) at Area Military Health Unit North West (AMHU NW). Method: The study took on a qualitative research approach which is explorative and descriptive in nature. Two focus groups with a semi-structured interview schedule were the design employed to collect data. Participants from Social Work and Psychology Departments at AMHU NW took part in the study as professionals working closely with child care problems in that military unit. A thematic analysis method was applied to analyse data extracted from the focus groups. Findings: The study revealed fragmentation of military families to be central to child care problems related to child abandonment where children are left with grandparents and nannies with little support from the parents. The other alarming concern is with the conception of children in deployment areas abandoned by fathers on their return after deployment periods. Issues of child maintenance and insufficient provision of basic needs for children abandoned appears to be related to parents’ financial mismanagement, leading in turn to multiple deployments as a means to make extra finances which also end up misused in most instances. Family dysfunctions marked with domestic violence, varied forms of child abuse, substance abuse, conflicts between maternal and paternal families, and delayed payments of pension and funeral policies for a deceased parent all pertain to child care issues affecting military children. And the protection of children against all forms of maltreatment through family support systems, solid marriages and responsible non-parent caregivers appear to require an acknowledgement of their vulnerability, and thus their empowerment on issues that affect them and proper application of their human rights. There appears to be an increase in child care related issues at AMHU NW with referrals from parents and schools on behavioural problems, low academic performance, adjustment issues after relocation, drug use and experiment, delinquent behaviour, and mental health issues to mention a few. MSWOs and psychologists find themselves overwhelmed with these challenges – some of which require referrals to specialists and result in delayed responses or appointments set for later periods. Interventions employed on child care issues by MSWOs are more restorative in nature through casework on referred children. On a preventative note, the department is also running a life-skills group work programme – #B-Yoself – which also extends to community work annually. These means of intervention are helpful but limited by the lack of expertise on child related interventions for those with social problems for both the psychology and social work departments at AMHU NW.
- Health Sciences