What CCYF Offers

A Research Master’s degree that gives a systematic understanding of knowledge, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of the social work discipline, field of study or area of professional practice. This degree offers the opportunity of demonstrating originality in application of knowledge and in addressing problems.

PhD in Social Work - The goal is to give our students a research platform where they can present their work at national conferences by the time they graduate, and many have published their research in peer-reviewed journals.


The Centre for Child, Youth and Family studies, situated in the Western Cape, (Wellington) is a research platform for community-based research with all aspects of community wellbeing as focus. Since 2011 the CCYF developed a strategic vision to be a leading platform in the Western Cape, in the field of Child, Youth and Family Studies, through reciprocal partnerships with communities.

Mission Statement

To provide an inter-disciplinary platform for training,  consultation, research and rendering services to enhance the psychosocial well-being of children, youth and families from a community engagement perspective.

Research Focus

Current research strengths are focused around seven areas:

•    Child and family wellbeing (Strengthening families)
•    Families, parenting and intergenerational relationships
•    Children and youth participation and citizenship
•    Marginalised children, young people and youth at risk
•    Working with assets and resources in context of trauma and poverty
•    Scholarship for community engagement

Focus Areas


According to South African legislation, there is a commitment to ensure that children’s human rights are advanced, promoted, protected and developed.  Participation is an ongoing process of children’s expression and involvement in decision-making at different levels in matters that concern them.  It entails showing respect for children’s views on matters affecting their lives, taking into account the child’s age, developmental phase and maturity.

The focus of the research is therefore children’s participation in different contexts.  It is guided by a children’s rights perspective as well as other social work theories:  strengths based perspective, ecological systems approach.  It is contextualised within the diverse realities of Africa.

The ultimate goal of this research is to promote children’s participation in the context of social work in Southern Africa.  It further aims to use the findings of the research to partner with children, youth, families and communities to encourage and promote children’s participation.


Dr Susanne Jacobs (SL) holds PHD in Education and has been involved in teaching and facilitating learning from ECD to tertiary level.  She also holds a master’s degree in Play therapy. She is a lecturer at the Centre for Child, Youth and Family Studies (NWU from 2009, Centurion office) responsible for post graduate supervision (distance and contact) of research undertaken by masters and doctoral students in the fields of Education, Social work and Psychology.

Her interests are themes using a positive psychological approach towards supportive relationships that have an influence on the psycho-social wellbeing of learners, peers, teachers, parents and families; thus with regards to relational well-being in family, society and school. Appreciative Inquiry, utilized  with individuals or groups in communities is firstly used as an appreciative perspective (strength-based constructivist approach which simultaneously facilitates change); and secondly, as a method of inquiry. 

The relational well-being perspective assumes that the individual, family, community and society are interconnected and inseparable. A person cannot be in existence in the absence of the other and hence it is important to ensure that all the systems in the South African context are taken care of, as for instance poverty which causes vulnerabilities which then again influences the family (maltreatment, substance abuse, AIDS, bereavement, single parent families, adoption and child headed households, amongst others). The White Paper on families in South Africa (2013) emphasizes the importance of ensuring that families are empowered, strengthened and preserved.

Research project for interested students: To look into ECD towards advancing ECD development; mapping the gaps in SA in order to support good early development; thus developing and moving towards capacity-building activities designed to facilitate students’ central research focus towards community development, creating of positive relationships  and developing and implementing  supportive strategies. Findings from the research will be highly relevant and beneficial to organizations/systems employees, parents, teachers, lecturers and relevant stakeholders.


The parent-adolescent relationship has over the years received considerable attention and has been researched and written about in not just academic and scholarly journals, but also in secular magazines. With regards to research done on an international level it was, for many decades believed that the parent-adolescent relationship is a relationship characterised by constant conflict. Conflict and related issues with regards to this relationship therefore received considerable attention over the years. In the past decade a change was seen in terms of the focus regarding the parent-adolescent relationship, where research specifically focused on parent monitoring and adolescent disclosure.

Research done in South Africa (SA) in recent years on the topic of the parent-adolescent relationship mostly focussed on social issues such as a) adolescent risk taking behaviour, b) how parents deal with such behaviour and c) on the general experiences of adolescents from different socio economic environments with regards to their relationship with their parents. When studying the results of these studies it seems evident that aspects such as conflict, parental monitoring and adolescent disclosure also seem to be the focus of studies done on the well-being of the parent-adolescent relationship within a SA context.

The outcomes of these research studies most of the time indicated a unidirectional focus, namely parents‟ responsibility in the well-being of the relationship. This research focus on the existential dialogue as a collaborative reciprocal process in the parent-adolescent relationship.


This research focus on the interplay of material, interpersonal and personal resources in the contexts of trauma and poverty by using qualitative research. Data collection is mainly done with visual data collection techniques such as mapping. Poverty is conceptualized as more than absolute poverty. Max-Neef’s outline of poverty in areas of fundamental human needs is a significant framework. The research is guided by bio-ecological systems theory and strength-based approaches.

Students with a keen interest in trauma and poverty can apply to get more information.


This inter-disciplinary community based project focus on out of school boys and street children. Findings from an investigation indicate that the average age of South African street children is approximately 13 years, predominantly of male African origin. Most have been on the streets for three years or longer, and they cited family violence, parental alcoholism, abuse, and poverty as the main motivating factors for leaving home. Most of these findings are common among street children all over the world.

According to the Children’s Act no 38 of 2005, a street child means a child who (a) because of abuse, neglect, poverty, community upheaval or any other reason, has left his or her home, family or community and lives, begs or works on the streets; or (b) because of inadequate care, begs or works on the streets but returns home after night.

The delivery of services to street children or children living and working on the streets remains a complex and challenging process. The services that are rendered to these children in inter-sectorial and integrated approach are needed. For these services to be successful, they must be under pinned by the values of the developmental approach which is rights based, and good relations between social workers and the communities where these children live. Research for this is long overdue.

The phenomenon of children living and working in the streets is worldwide. However, due to their fluid, evasive and unpredictable lifestyle, the precise number of these children is almost impossible to know.

Children living and working in the streets are a manifestation of the problems which children and families experience in communities as a result of health, social and economic factors which render

homes, less effective in providing for the children‟s well-being, thus leading to their marginalization. While some vulnerable children may be protected through social assistance and child care services provided by government, there are other children who fail to be detected and some of them become children living and working in the street.


This focus is investing in actions that strengthen women in compromised communities in order to transform their futures. It aims to focus on facilitating women economically through skills development and to inspire and offer interventions to allow women's full participation in all walks of life. Woman from diverse backgrounds with diverse challenges - from intimate partner violence to abuse, gender discrimination, marginalized environments and dependency are included in this research. The project will at least continue for the next 8 years.

The ultimate goal of this project is to facilitate community participation through the development of indigenous knowledge on how to address gender mainstreaming in Southern Africa.

By supporting the UN's Women's Empowerment Principles, this research is underlining the important role played by the Higher Education sector in creating an empowering environment. Social workers with an urgency to break down the myths and beliefs about what a woman can and cannot do and to transform systems that prevent women and girls to fulfil their potential and realizing their dreams can apply to be part of this dynamic team of researchers working in this field.


Child abuse in all its forms is a worldwide problem and child sexual abuse especially is a growing concern in South Africa. This phenomenon impacts on the victim, the family and society negatively in the long term. The emotional, psychological, and physical traumas that sexual violence victims experience can last for months, years, and for some, even a lifetime. Children living in high risk areas face elevated risks of child sexual abuse. Therefore, this research focus on the prevention of child sexual abuse, specifically in high risk areas as well as interventions with victims of child sexual abuse.