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Pictured here are children being assisted by the child and youth care centre, James House.

Be brutally honest with yourself when gathering evidence to check whether your social enterprise is making an impact and adjust your programmes if need be.

This is the advice from Edwin Corbett, managing director at child and youth care centre James House.

With 15 years of experience in this sector, Corbett’s advice is not to be taken lightly.

James House was founded in 1996 by a group of church women who ran a soup kitchen and named the organisation after a street child who was successfully assisted by these women. In 2000, it was registered as an independent non-profit organisation.

“The focus on dealing with orphans left in toilets, for example, at the height of the Aids pandemic in the 1980s through to early 2000 was reactionary, but it soon became clear that early intervention and prevention was needed,” says Corbett.

This is what the members of James House set out to do. The organisation’s programmes were adjusted by implementing child-care forums using 10 community volunteers to help identify children from the same area who were at risk. Once these children were identified, usually those from child-headed homes, help was dispensed to families in the way of assisting with child-care grants and helping them gain access to drop-in centres.

Drop-in centres are container-like offices which operate as a communal facilities where children at risk of being placed in an institution such as a home or juvenile facility can take a shower, receive assistance with their homework, enjoy a meal and do their laundry. With clearly defined outcomes such as these James House has been able to measure whether or not it has had an impact on the communities it serves. Corbett points out that proof of this is that the organisation received a recent request from the Department of Social Development to carry out a presentation on its strategies.

“Thanks to the success of our programmes, James House has also rolled out two more sites where assistance is provided. Each site has 25 child-care workers working in their respective communities,” says Corbett. One programme that the organisation has had to make adjustments to in order to make a bigger impact is its Boys Best Adolescent Programme – a six-month therapeutic programme.

The programme has clearly defined outcomes and measures its success using school absenteeism, by way of observations by trained psychologists and official psychometric testing.

Further proof of the organisation’s success is the role that it has been able to play in the development of child-care workers as a profession.

“The South African Council of Social Service Professions has drafted regulations for the Social Service Professions Act and has called for comment on formalising the child-care workers profession,” says Corbett. Previously child-care workers were simply volunteers, without training.

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