Adults with special needs are extremely stigmatized in South Africa and many are institutionalized or kept away from society. It is our desire to think outside the box, and offer a better future for the older children in our care. Over the last 18 years, we have developed a reputation for being able to offer the highest level of care for children who are hard to place based on unique medical and physical needs. Social workers, judges, and Places of Safety continually reach out to us when they have a child whose needs are greater than what they can offer. We have welcomed a growing number of children with unique needs based on diagnoses such as HIV/AIDS, Autism, Down syndrome, Paralysis, profound hearing loss, and extreme malnutrition.
While many of our children will launch into self-sufficient adulthood, some will require a long-term family plan that reaches far into adulthood in order to provide dignity, care, and a chance to live a fulfilling life. Our solution to this growing need is our newly opened Special Needs Advancement Center (SNAC), located in the Cape Town region of South Africa.
The SNAC is a small farm with a large home that functions much like our Johannesburg Provision Home, where the region’s Forever Families can come meet with social workers, psychologists, and friends. Surrounding the home are several small cottages to serve as Forever Family Homes. These smaller cottages provide universal access for our young adults in wheelchairs, and a serene haven where our children with special needs can be launched slowly.
Each Forever Home Cottage will have a House Parent to provide the necessary structure and routine that these young adults require in order to thrive in a slower paced setting. Family meals will take place within the cottages, and healthy nutrition will allow for optimal health. In addition, the SNAC will allow us to provide some “work study” programs with plans for orchards and box gardens that can offer fulfilling and hands-on work. Due to the entrepreneurial nature of this area, opening a small restaurant or coffee shop in the property is possible in the future, in order to allow our young adults things such as cooking, baking, and service experience.
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.” We envision a future where our children don’t just survive as adults, but truly thrive with:
· life in a slower-paced, rural setting
· healthy diets and daily routines
· fulfillment that comes from working with their hands
· a continued sense of family belonging and every opportunity for success
Our SNAC officially opened in April 2016 with our first Forever Family moving in. We are so excited to offer our young adults with special needs a future that will provide them with dignity, individualized care, and everything needed to live an active life. While we love to celebrate our Acres of Love children and their accomplishments in school, sports, and extracurricular adventures, we are also aware that in God’s economy, the daily commitment to children with special needs may be our biggest and longest-lasting success stories.