Strategies used by child and youth care workers to develop belonging and foster healthy attachments with young people in care in child and youth care centers in Tshwane, South Africa

Mizeck Chimange & Sue Bond - Children and Youth Services Review


There are an estimated 21,000 children in Child and Youth Care Centres in South Africa. They come from backgrounds of neglect and abuse. Such experiences in early childhood influence the formation of secure attachments, and may have an effect on relational functioning lifelong. The South African welfare system has adopted the circle of courage as a framework for positive youth development. Child and youth care workers are required to implement the circle of courage in child and youth care centres. The circle of courage has four quadrants; belonging, mastery, independence and generosity. The concept of belonging shares close conceptual links with attachment theory. Little is known about how child and youth care workers develop attachments and belonging with children in their care. This qualitative study, conducted in four child and youth care centres in the Tshwane region of South Africa, presents some techniques used by child and youth care workers to develop belonging. These include creating a welcoming environment, orienting young people to the child and youth care centre, meeting the child’s physiological needs, setting rules and boundaries, verbalizing affection for young people in care, physical contact and explaining the circumstances that brought them together. We conclude that these findings can be used to develop child and youth care training and to operationalize the concept of belonging in child and youth care settings.