Mediational Intervention for Sensitizing Caregivers to Improve Mental Health Outcomes in Orphaned and Vulnerable Children

Carla Sharp, Paulina Kulesz, Lochner Marais, Cilly Shohet, Kholisa Rani, Molefi Lenka, Jan Cloete, Salome Vanwoerden, Deborah Givon & Michael Boivin - Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology


Objective: There is an urgent need to equip community-based careworkers with the skills to address the mental health needs of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) as an essential response to shortages in human resources for mental health in Sub-Saharan Africa. We conducted a quasi-experimental feasibility trial in South Africa to adapt and evaluate an established year-long semi-structured, manualized video-feedback caregiver intervention (the Mediational Intervention for Sensitizing Caregivers; MISC) for community-based organizations (CBOs).

Methods: Following a year-long iterative cross-cultural adaptation of MISC, we recruited 88 OVC (ages 7–11; 45.5% girls) and their CBO careworkers (N = 18; 94.4% female). Two CBOs (45 children; 9 CBO careworkers) received 12 months of MISC, and two CBOs (43 children; 9 CBO careworkers) received treatment as usual. Child mental health and quality of caregiving were assessed at 6 months into the intervention and at completion through multi-informant questionnaires and video-recordings of careworker-child interactions. Qualitative interviews were conducted to evaluate feasibility and acceptability.

Results: MISC-CBO was acceptable and feasible in terms of attendance and post-intervention interviews. MISC improved child mental health, as well as the quality of careworker caregiving in terms of interactive effects for affective and cognitive (Expanding) components of MISC, and main effects for the cognitive components of Rewarding and Provision of meaning. MISC components did not mediate the effects of the intervention.

Conclusions: The current study shows that laypersons with no tertiary education and virtually no prior training who undergo MISC training can improve caregiving quality and the mental health of OVCs.