Childline Therapeutic Programmes for Children Harmed by Abuse

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Therapeutic programmes for families where children have been harmed by sexual abuse.  Childline staff deliver the progamme using play therapy, individual, group and family therapy.

Type of intervention

Classroom setting, individual work, counselling, family work

Target groups, level of prevention and subgroups

  • Children and Young People (Victims) | Tertiary prevention | Young Children (0-5 years), Children (6-11 years), Young People (12-17 years), Young Adults (18-20 years), Adults (21+ years) | Male and female | Group work, individual work, counselling, family work | English
  • Communities/Families | Tertiary prevention | Young Children (0-5 years), Children (6-11 years), Young People (12-17 years), Young Adults (18-20 years), Adults (21+ years) | Male and female | Group work, individual work, counselling, family work | English

Target population

Children and their caregivers and families.

Delivery organisation

ChildLine South Africa and its affiliated Provincial ChildLine Offices.

Mode and context of delivery

These therapeutic programmes are offered to children who have been harmed by child sexual abuse, in contexts that are child and family friendly. Play therapy, individual, group and family therapy are all modalities that are used as well as support from other role-players in other contexts in which the child lives and learns – e.g. the school. Programmes are tailored to the individual needs of the child.

Level/nature of staff expertise required

High level – staff must be professionally qualified and registered, with specialist training and experience in the field. Due to lack of suitable training in the academic environment, ChildLine provides training and ongoing mentoring and debriefing to staff in this programme.

Intensity/extent of engagement with target group(s)

These are intensive programmes with weekly contact with the child and family. The length of the intervention is related to the needs of the child and family. Where the programme is offered in a residential setting the child and family member may be seen several times in a single day and all activities are geared towards providing a therapeutic environment. Child and youth care workers are therefore specially trained and supported to ensure this.

Description of intervention

The needs of the child and the family are assessed. Intervention is both child and family centred and a variety of theories and approaches are used, according to the needs, context, age of the child and family situation. Multiple approaches may be used for a single child/family over the period of intervention.

Intervention is often short term, as dictated by the resources available to both ChildLine and the family.

Children are followed up wherever possible and supported through any criminal and other court processes that follow the reporting of the abuse. The safety of each individual child is assessed and referrals are made to other services.

This programme has been adapted for children living in deep rural areas to which therapy services cannot be decentralised as it is unaffordable and impractical. The children and their parent/caregiver are brought into a residential setting for an intensive 8/9 day therapeutic programme. Both the context and the programme is directed and organised around the healing of the child and family.

During this period the child and family are also linked to other child protection services – health and legal/police/prosecution, if appropriate. Alternative care is also considered for those children who are not safe in their home environment due to the inefficiency of the child protection services in rural areas.

Before the child leaves the programme, a resource person from or near their community meets with the therapist – this might be a generic social worker or a child and youth care worker - and the continued monitoring and support of the child and family is planned.

ChildLine staff remain in contact with the child and family after the period of intensive therapy in order to monitor the continued safety of the child, further needs, maintaining the gains of the therapeutic experience and to ensure follow through by health and other services. Where the child is found to be HIV+ as a result of the abuse, health and other needs are carefully tracked


This programme has been externally evaluated through PEPFAR in partnership with a research team from the University of Pretoria and an evaluation report with recommendations is available from the ChildLine National Office. The research has also been presented at various conferences and congresses both nationally and internationally.


No information about published research is available to be included here.

Contact details

ChildLine National Office
Tel: (+27)-(0)31-201 2059
Fax: (+27)-(0)86 511 0032
Postal Address: PO Box 51418, Musgrave, 4062

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RATING: Promising