In South Africa today only one in every three children lives with both of their biological parents. Most children not living with biological parents live with a grandparent.
Vulnerable children are those whose basic needs for food, shelter, safety, protection, and education are not met or are insufficiently met. Many children who are orphaned are vulnerable, but vulnerability is not limited to orphans only. Children who live with their grandparents can be called vulnerable children as they suffer the loss of parental contact through death, illness, abandonment or migrant labour.
Care-givers of vulnerable children face numerous challenges in their daily lives. Although the care of grandchildren by grandmothers is not unusual or new, the traditional network of financial and emotional support for this care-giving task has gradually fallen away over the years as parents are deceased, or too ill to work or have abandoned their children. This has left care-givers, many of whom are elderly and themselves vulnerable, with less resources and more financial and care-giving responsibility. Care-givers and the children for whom they care live in a wider context of poverty, unemployment, the HIV pandemic and crime in South Africa. Care-givers are at risk of burn-out due to the intensity of the challenges they face. Increasing resilience of care-givers serves to increase the positive outcomes for the vulnerable children in their care.
The goal of this study was to explore whether participation in awareness-based Gestalt group work sessions would enhance the resilience of care-givers of vulnerable children.
In the context of applied research, a mixed methods approach was used, specifically an embedded mixed methods approach. The study measured respondents‟ resilience before and after the implementation of a series of eight Gestalt group work sessions. A quasi-experimental research design, the comparison group pre-test-post-test design, was used for the quantitative part of the study and a case study design for the qualitative part. Quantitative data were collected through a structured interview using a pre-determined interview schedule based on theoretical constructs of resilience. Qualitative data were collected through semi-structured interviews, observations and field notes. The respondents were 19 care-givers of vulnerable children from a semi-rural area in KwaZulu-Natal. They were selected through snowball sampling and were assigned into comparison and experimental groups through a simple random sampling method. The experimental group participated in the Gestalt group work sessions whilst the comparison group did not.
Although the quantitative results showed no significant difference in the pre- and post-test results, the qualitative results confirmed that experimental group members experienced a positive effect upon their resilience through participating in the Gestalt group work.
Conclusions drawn from the qualitative findings indicated that respondents had a high level of resilience present in their lives before the research began. The awareness-based Gestalt group work sessions had a positive impact upon aspects related to the resilience of care-givers of vulnerable children.