HESKE SANGSTER

Heske Sangster

I am a social worker with 6 years’ experience in working with children and families.  I have a very supportive husband and a daughter.  I value family life and am thankful for my family.  Upon completion of my Degree in Social Work at the University of the Free State in 2012, I started working at a child protection organisation (ENGO) in Bloemfontein, where I was challenged with a wide array of statutory and therapeutic experiences.  Working at a child protection organisation is a big responsibility as you are responsible for the safety of children at risk.  Here I was reminded what a privilege it is to have children but also how difficult it can be to be a good parent and to act in your child’s best interest when struggling with social issues such as poverty, being in an abusive relationship, growing up in harsh circumstances and not knowing what it is to be a good parent. Luckily children can be very resilient and; with only a little help, they can overcome the adversities they have experienced.  Working at a child protection organisation can be very difficult and emotional draining.  From my experience at ENGO I learned how important self – care is and that it is of paramount importance to take care of yourself as a social worker or therapist so that you can prevent burnout and always be able to give your clients the best.

During this time, I furthered my studies and completed an honours degree in Psychology. I wanted to extend my knowledge of psychology so that I can provide a holistic service to clients.  My favourite subjects were human development studies and psychopathology.  I conducted my mini thesis on the relationship between attachment and parenting styles in adolescents.  I am of the opinion that attachment plays a very important role in children’s lives and that all parents should have knowledge of attachment and of how it can influence their relationship with their children but also their child’s adult relationships.

 In 2016 we relocated to Pretoria where I started working as a social worker at a high school, where I am still working during the mornings. Working with adolescents gives you the opportunity to experience first-hand how teenagers function within their peer groups.  Here I often deal with the effect of social media in children’s lives as well as the aftermath of peer pressure and numerous other social issues.    

During 2017 I commenced with a Research Masters with specialisation in Psychology and am still in the process of completing it. The topic I chose to conduct my research on is the experience of emotional regulation of divorcees who co-parent. Co-parenting refers to people who are divorced who share parenting responsibilities.   I chose this topic as there is a scant amount of research conducted on co-parenting in South Africa and it interests me how divorcees regulate their emotions after divorce, whilst co-parenting.

I am passionate about working with children and find joy in my work!  I am determined to do my best for every child that crosses my path.  I have completed several trainings related to child therapy and child assessment.  One of these include the Socio-emotional evaluation which I find very valuable when working with children. It provides the therapist with a structured process while evaluating the child and it yields a great amount of information on the child’s experience of his/her life.

Providing therapeutic services or play therapy to children is once again a big responsibility and I regard it as an honour to work with children.  Children in South Africa are protected by the Children’s Act 38/2005 which provides guidelines on how to act in the child’s best interest (Section 7 of the Children’s Act 38/2005).  I always use these guidelines to act in the child’s best interest.  As children do not always have the verbal ability to express their feelings and emotional turmoil, other methods are used to conduct therapy with a child such as making use of toys and drawings etc.  I always work from a child centred perspective, putting the child and his or her emotional needs at the centre of the therapeutic process.

 I have a big passion for children who are caught in the middle of their parent’s divorce process, feeling anxious and helpless amid the conflict.   Which is why I have also completed training in mediation and the development of parenting plans, hoping to assist parents who are unable to come to an agreement regarding their children’s primary residency and contact arrangements.   

I enjoy working with children as they are tomorrow’s future and who would not want to have a chance to influence the future?