As a result of severe crime across the country, Hope House Counselling Centre said it is experiencing a surge in children in need of counselling services. Picture: Supplied

Cape Town - She is only three years old and suffers from separation anxiety after her home was broken into and her mother wasn’t allowed near her during the robbery.

Baby X is one of many children receiving trauma counselling as a result of severe crime across the country.

Hope House Counselling Centre said it was experiencing a surge in children in need of counselling services and there was a dire shortage of child counsellors. On its waiting list alone there are 68 children, while only 25 children, aged three to 18, receive free weekly services.

Director Judy Strickland said they were inundated with referrals from other child organisations on the Cape Flats.

She said there was a shortage of child counsellors, especially in the Mitchells Plain area, where there was a lot of gang violence.

“Trauma and violence are an all too common occurrence in South Africa, whether it’s armed robberies, domestic abuse or divorce. Sadly, children are often caught in the crossfire.

“Counselling for children is vital as children are not likely to say when they are struggling. Most of their suffering is overlooked and if a child has been through trauma there are behavioural changes that can affect their academics and development,” she said.

Strickland said social workers were overworked and some were not trained in play therapy.

“They do forensic work, which we don’t. They investigate and deal with the law, but there are some instances where social workers are not needed. It is just the mental health of the child that needs healing,” she said.

Hope House Counselling Centre Director Judy Strickland.

Strickland said Hope House need to raise funds to employ a child counsellor full time.

She said they also run an intervention programme for adolescents using drugs as well a prevention and life skills programme at primary schools.

"We are limited in our resources, but have a huge demand from schools so getting people to sponsor a child to go through our programme."

Lastly Hope House have a Strengthening Families Programme for families.

"Here we need electirc sandwich toasters, which we give as gifts at the graduation, and meals as we serve breakfast every session.

"We also need volunteers willing to help run the programme."

Strickland said: "We have been around for 13 years offering the above on a donation/ free basis to communities that are in desperate need, but funding is always a challenge as people often don't see the need for funding mental health problems."

Strickland said that in the case of Baby X, when asked what would make her feel safe she said a "magic wand that would scare the burglars away". This technique has helped ease the toddlers' anxiety.

* Click here for more information on how to support the Hope House Counselling Centre.

* As part of our #WeCareWednesdays campaign, each week IOL will feature an organisation that needs a helping hand.

Read our previous features:

#WeCareWednesdays: Prioritising the emotional well-being of mothers