People often ask how children arrive to our care at Acres of Love. We are registered and licensed with the South African government to offer long-term care to children who have been orphaned and/or abandoned. Each child is unique, and so are their stories.
Infant abandonment is a critical issue in South Africa today and for every three babies that are abandoned, two will not be found in time. All too often, infants are abandoned at the side of busy roads, in public toilets, empty fields, or dustbins. Some still have umbilical cords attached, while others are young children or sibling sets struggling to survive. These are the beginnings of many of our children’s stories, but it isn’t the end.
Our children are found by community members or government social workers and placed in emergency shelters or hospitals. Our Acres of Love social workers are contacted to apply for admission and we diligently admit our children as quickly as possible through proper government channels in order to offer long-term advocacy and care.
Each time we welcome an infant, we give thanks for a life saved. It brings us so much joy to welcome a new little one to our Acres of Love family today. Once a child arrives to our care they are LOVED. And we are passionate about giving them everything they need to thrive.
When we find out about a new arrival, our team goes into action! We prepare a bed, gather clothing (and nappies and formula for infants), prepare our medical team, and communicate with their future siblings.
Once that child arrives, we work to help them first understand that they are safe and that their immediate needs will be met. Often our children arrive severely malnourished. Most are traumatized by loss, abandoned, neglect, and/or abuse.
Our focus is on communicating that we see them uniquely. Our team works to assess their medical, emotional, nutritional, and educational needs. During this stage, we focus on bringing them close and keeping their world small while they settle into a new family. We work to support our moms so they can answer each call, cry, or question with gentleness and love.
Predictable home routines help our children understand that they can trust us to feed them when they are hungry, comfort them when they are sad, hug them when they have a bad dream. This process can take weeks or months, but we are committed to helping each child “cocoon” at home until they begin to show that they are secure within their Forever Family.
More than 40% of our children arrive with moderate to severe special needs, but when we welcome a child, we do not see their diagnosis… we see a child first. We know each child is unique- with strengths and gifts to offer the world. It is our privilege to help each child uncover those strengths and gifts as we also care for their special and medical needs.
We refuse to believe that children orphaned in South Africa are disposable and we’re passionate about communicating their worth- first to them but also to the doctors, teachers, and therapists who walk alongside us to offer them the very best care.
Our medical, educational, and nutritional teams create an Individualized Development Plan (IDP) to create a pathway for success for each specific child so they can thrive. This includes medical treatments, navigating the best educational options, diet, early intervention therapies, tutoring, and extra-curricular opportunities to help them flourish.
We seek to offer each child in our care exactly what we would give our own. For children with special needs, we know that this means creating a future where they can live full and inspiring lives that are outside the institutional setting. We constantly fight the perceptions that children who are orphaned or live with special needs are “not worth fighting for,” or “don’t need that much to survive.”