Mowbray Maternity’s team of social workers offer a wide range of services both to the hospital and to the community at large. These include counselling for hospital patients, training for staff, community support groups and outreach programmes, and helping to address situations where children are at risk.
Mowbray Maternity’s social workers offer counselling in various situations, such as where mothers (and fathers) are dealing with the loss of, or health issues concerning, their newborn children.
In such cases, we counsel the mothers while they are at the hospital, and conduct follow-up sessions with them for around six weeks after they have been discharged. After this, we have a “open door policy” and they can come in and see us whenever they feel the need.
Counselling is also provided in cases of substance abuse, teenage pregnancies, and where mothers have tested positive for HIV, among others. Often, we will refer them to community social workers, rehab centres, etc. for ongoing counselling once they leave the hospital.
In addition to one-on-one counselling, we also run support groups for people dealing with similar challenges to share their experiences and hopefully to learn from, and find solace in, one another.
Where necessary, hospital staff also receive counselling – be it for personal issues or for helping them deal with difficult experiences they’ve had while working at the hospital.
Our social workers also offer training to Mowbray Maternity healthcare professionals on request. The healthcare professionals are taught to improve their listening and communication skills and how best to respond to patients – particularly those who are dealing with the loss/health complications of their child, cases where there is substance abuse, etc.
Extending our Services
We partner with Samila, an NGO providing Gender Counselling & Support Services to the community. Often, we refer our patients to organisations such as Samila for further counselling once they leave the hospital. We also work with Samila in training lay counselors in the community to run support groups and offer counselling to bereaved mothers, pregnant teenagers, substance abusers, etc. It is through outreach programmes such as these that we are able to extend our services to the wider community.
We also partner with both UCT and UWC, offering work experience to social work students enrolled at those institutions. The students help us run support groups both at the hospital (e.g. for Kangaroo mothers ) and also in the community (at schools, etc).
Drawing on their findings and experiences, our social workers run support groups and workshops at local schools, universities and other community centres. These are a great way to engage the community on issues such as teenage pregnancies, substance abuse and safe sex.
Children at Risk
Mowbray Maternity has a legal obligation to ensure the safety and wellbeing of babies born at the hospital – both while they are under our care, and after they are discharged.
In cases where we suspect the child may be at risk – substance abuse on the part of the parents, no appropriate accommodation, etc, we bring in “family collateral” – family members who are able to testify on behalf of the parents. If this isn’t successful or we aren’t satisfied with the testimony, we do written referrals to child welfare organizations. These organisations then have 60 days to conduct home investigations while the child is either still at the hospital or at another place of safety. Based on findings of these investigations, they let us know whether the mother should keep the child or not.
We also work closely with various adoption agencies, referring mothers wishing to put their child up for adoption to these agencies. In such a case, the child will go to a place of safety for 60 days before the process is set in motion (the mother may change her mind during this time).