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Caring for the Carers: The ICDP Programme

Updated: May 3, 2021

By Amy Shirley

Children need to develop in the context of a stable, safe, and loving relationship. Our brain develops in relationships. Without supportive caregiving in childhood; children’s social, emotional and cognitive development is compromised.

In South African society we know that the burdens of poverty, discrimination, unemployment, disrupted family structures, violence, HIV and more are a reality. This may also relate to mere daily stressors and pressures of modern life. All of these place a burden on parents and caregivers, and ultimately impact on the basic psychological needs of children. Even though they most likely want the best for their child, at times this can be difficult. Caregivers who are overwhelmed, depressed or stressed are less likely to be able to recognise and respond appropriately to a child’s communication and need.

Children cannot develop into socially responsible, confident, self-regulated adults if there is a relationally unstable start to life. Ububele acknowledges these obstacles to child development and works to support parents and caregivers in the community that we work – Alexandra.

One of the Parenting trainings that we run at Ububele, is called the International Child Development Programme (ICDP). “The ICDP approach is based on the idea that the best way to help children is by helping the children’s caregivers” *. This is an 8-week experiential training, centred around 8 guidelines for good interactions between child and caregivers. The primary objective is to encourage empathy and sensitive caregiving to children.

Sable Leicher, Thozamile Nkonki and Lerato Khoza of Ububele

One of the strengths of this training is the cultural awareness. The participants are encouraged to think about their cultural child rearing practices, what they liked about the way they were brought up, and to enhance these in a child sensitive way. In this way, the facilitators are not the experts, but are rather trying to reactivate caring practices that may already exist.

In 2020, even with the pressures and limitations of the pandemic, Ububele ran 6 ICDP parenting groups with the community of Alex. The feedback from the groups have been powerful, with many parents reporting that they are no longer using physical discipline on their children and are trying to put themselves in their children’s shoes.

I have gained more knowledge on how to help my kids grow not to force but to help them. And staying calm is very important”.

Learning how to be a better parent and have a good relationship with your child”.

I have gained some knowledge and how to raise [my] child how to [calm] myself when something is wrong”.

We are grateful to have been able to reach these caregivers, and to hopefully have had a lasting impact on their parenting, and as such the lifelong development of their children.

Amy Shirley is a psychologist at The Ububele Educational and Psychotherapy Trust. Amy is currently running ICDP training in Alexandra, Johannesburg with Lerato Khoza, an Ububele Early Childhood Community Practitioner. To read more about the The ICDP Programme go to or go to Ububele's services for Families.

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