Becoming A Primary Caregiver

August, a month in which I found myself consumed with conflicting emotions.

Sitting in a speech and language assessment with my 4 year-old niece, watching her struggle, a punch in my gut, as memories of my personal journey with my son came flooding at me. Those words, “she urgently needs intervention and a hearing test”, sent chills down my spine.

Not Again! Consumed by the reality of my brother’s situation, the need for intervention and this precious child, oblivious to her development delays.

Not wanting to wait, not knowing what the results would be, understanding the “window” period, I arranged for a hearing test, with her parents permission.

A week later, the audiologist confirmed that her hearing is normal. Again, speech and language therapy is recommended. Her parents’ struggled to understand the concept of her delay, “maar sy praat dan so mooi nou”. “Ja, haar spraak is beter, BUT there is a big difference between having the ability to speak words and understanding the meaning thereof. A child can copy speech, without understanding”.

Unfortunately, intervention at a government institution comes with a 5 month waiting period! She’s not in a school, the nearest “good” school is a 30 minute walk away! And at exorbitant costs, fees that her parents cannot afford, a young mom, unemployed and no support structure, no parental guidance and no reference to family/child rearing since she herself was raised in a Children’s Home. My brother, hard working, an income that covers the mere basics to survive, fighting his own demons.

Parents who love their child dearly, who only wants the best for her. Faced with a challenge for which they themselves are ill equipped.

Understanding the realities of my brother’s situation, the unfortunate realities in which they find themselves in. After looking at best options to help them support my niece, considering the support structures, resources and costs involved; a decision had to be made.

Having these discussions weren’t easy. As a parent, looking in the eyes of another parent who loves their child dearly, as they say to you, “ons glo dit sal beter wees as sy by jou kom bly, ons wil net die beste he vir haar” is heartbreaking yet inspiring, if this makes any sense?!

In that moment, I experienced the unconditional love my niece’s parents have for her. I cannot begin to imagine what they must be feeling. My only comfort to them is that I promise to do what is best for her.

Together we have formulated a plan to ensure that Faith receives the best opportunities to help her develop. And even though she is not my child, I committed a long time ago, that I will ensure that there is no disparity between my son and niece’s quality of education. They both deserve an equal opportunity in life, just like my brother and I.

So I’m embarking on a new adventure as Primary Caregiver of my niece. These are unchartered waters for me and I know we will face some significant challenges, but I believe…


Published with the permission of my brother and his wife.