Jill Turner says her passion for children led her to pursue a career as a social worker at Childline in Parow.
Jill is originally from Bonteheuwel and spent her teenage years in Parow. She moved to Kuils River getting married. She considered becoming a teacher after matriculating at Parow High School, but her father advised her to study something else.
“I had an aunt called Hilda Ludek who was a social worker, and I fondly remember the gentle temperament she had with children. I really liked the way she engaged us as children, and that was a factor I considered when choosing my career path.”
After graduating with a BA in social work she worked for Cape Town Child Welfare in Athlone for four years, investigating abuse cases, before starting at Childline.
“We deal with rape and sexual abuse cases; we conduct trauma and debriefing; bereavement and grief counselling, and we help prepare them for court and offer family support.”
In cases of child abuse, the SAPS Family Violence Children and Sexual Offences (FCS) Unit will investigate.
A medical examination will be done and there’ll be a consultation with a forensic social worker.
“Following those steps, the child would then be referred to us. We come in right at the end of the process,” says Jill.
“We help children who are unable to perhaps testify or those that who need additional counselling. We work on their self-esteem and provide them with coping skills.”
Childline also has offices in Mitchell’s Plain, Wynberg and Khayelitsha. Jill says the Parow office gets five to seven child-abuse-case referrals daily.
“We also get three to four walk-ins each day and our phones ring constantly.”
She says child abuse is rife in the northern suburbs, but children are becoming more aware of the dangers thanks to awareness programmes Childline and SAPS run in the schools.
“There is no easy case in this profession. Each child is different, and the way one child would react to a traumatic event is completely different to how another would process those same emotions.”
Childline also counsels many children traumatised by gang violence.
“Losing your grandmother, grandfather and mother in a space of three months would be challenging for any adolescent,” Jill says.
While her job is emotionally draining, Jill is still able to appreciate the joy in life.
“I am a mother of two beautiful girls, and I always tell them they can be anything they want to be. My eldest, Cody, 7, is a dreamer, and I tell her she can be anything she puts her mind to. I constantly motivate and reassure her that hard work and dedication pay off.”
Asked what the best advice her mother, Shirley, has given her, Jill, says: “My mom’s faith is a great motivator for me. She is very positive, and when we go through rough times, she always says: ‘This too shall pass’.”
She adds: “I believe that before you help others, you need to be okay.”