Early Security and Safety.

Every child feels loved, protected and safe regardless of their physical environment.

What is the problem?

An estimated one in four children in South Africa experiences some form of maltreatment – physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect – during their childhood. When a child does not receive the help they need, their body cannot turn off the stress response. This lasting (toxic) stress is damaging to their body and brain, delaying their development, and may cause lifelong health problems, including heart disease, depression and substance abuse.

Why does it matter?

It has been proven that young children who have stable, supportive relationships with caring adults are better able to regulate their brain and body’s response to stress hormone production. The caring adults act as buffers to the negative impacts of chronically elevated levels of hormones like cortisol, that if unchecked can alter a child’s capacity to learn and adapt to stressful situations. These stable, supportive relationships are particularly powerful for children living in chronic conditions of poverty and turmoil.

What is the opportunity?

The presence of motivated and capable caregivers and early learning practitioners offering consistent supportive and responsive care would prevent or reverse the damaging effects of toxic stress on young children.

If we can also create enabling environments for fathers (this includes biological and social fathers like stepfathers, uncles, grandfathers, teachers, coaches) to play a more nurturing role in the early years of their child’s life, and if harmful gender and social norms around child-rearing are disrupted, we may be more likely to protect young children from maltreatment.

We invest in innovative solutions that enable caregivers, including fathers, to provide consistent supportive and responsive care to their young children to prevent or reverse the effects of toxic stress. 

Are you a social entrepreneur and have creative ideas on how to act on opportunities or support caregivers in preventing or reversing effects of toxic stress in young children? Below are some enabling ingredients, which we hope will help to guide you. Each contains opportunities for innovation and investment. We hope this information will create a launchpad for creative ideas on how to act on opportunities or solve problems in this area.

We have a year-round open call for applications for funding and support for ideas that meet our investment criteria.

Empowered caregivers
  • Caregivers need to know how to provide consistent supportive and responsive care to their young children.
  • More fathers need to feel motivated and empowered to be involved in child-rearing duties, like play, nurturing and early education
  • Caregivers need psychosocial support to enable them to provide appropriate care to their young children.
  • Caregivers need to know how to identify signs of maltreatment and toxic stress in young children and the actions to take thereof.
Empowered care professionals
  • Early learning practitioners need to know how to identify signs of maltreatment and toxic stress in children, and how to work with caregivers to support the children.
  • Child and Youth Care workers need appropriate training and knowledge to provide caregivers with the support they need to care for their young children.

Examples of innovations that address the issue in safe and secure child environments.