What is Girls & Boys Town?

Girls & Boys Town, established in 1958, is a dynamic non-profit organisation that focuses on the development and strengthening of vulnerable youth, families and communities facing insurmountable obstacles and challenges. The organisation serves between 16,000 to 20,000 beneficiaries per annum. Our focus is on helping youth to Shine™.

Based on Father Flanagan’s famous Boys Town in Nebraska, USA, Girls and Boys Town South Africa is the only child care organisation in South Africa where youngsters are significantly involved in decision-making concerning their own affairs. Our unique system of peer group self-government and ‘family-style’ living encourages girls and boys to learn about leadership and responsibility under the guidance of adults so that they Shine™ in independence.

  • National therapeutic residential childcare campuses for vulnerable girls and boys placed by the Children’s Court between the ages of 8-18. The focus is on helping these youth to overcome their obstacles, heal and then Shine™ into independence.
  • Alternative national therapeutic residential programmes – Youth Development Centres and Family Homes for youth coming into care via the Children’s Court.
  • A continuum of training services to families, educators and other child care professionals who wish to strengthen their services or work with young people, families and communities.
  • A professionally-manned week-day national Hotline telephone counselling service for families, professionals and young people needing advice, guidance and/or short-term counselling.
  • Preventative and early intervention family strengthening interventions to families in their own homes and communities.

Girls and Boys Town is a national organisation.


Therapeutic Residential Centres:

Girls & Boys Town operates two types of therapeutic residential campuses nationally, for youth placed via the Children’s Court:

Youth Development Centres – each caring for up to 70 youth in a structured environment, under the guidance of trained, professional Child and Youth Care Workers are located in Magaliesburg (for boys), Randfontein (for girls), Tongaat (for boys) and Macassar (for boys).

Family Homes in the community – caring for up to 10 youth each in a “family-style” living situation under the guidance of trained and professional ‘Family Teachers’ (a couple) – are located in Glenwood (for boys), Verulam (for girls), Kenilworth (for boys), and Claremont (for girls) and two in Ranfontein (one for boys and one for girls).

Family Services are based in, and work with vulnerable community-based families in Gauteng, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Western Cape.

Community-based Training Services train school personnel, parents, care-givers and other child care professionals across all nine provinces in South Africa.

Our Hotline service resources caller needs across and in all of the nine South African provinces.

‘Growth Beyond the Town’, the GBT/UJ Longitudinal Study, is conducted nationally.

We accept girls and boys who are placed by the Children’s Court, of any race or religious faith, from every social level of society and from all parts of South Africa.

Each child is unique and arrives at a Girls and Boys Town with his/her own unique set of circumstances.

Girls and Boys Town admits youth into the therapeutic residential campuses via the Children’s Courts, where these youth have been identified to be at-risk and vulnerable because they have been abandoned, abused, violated and/or significantly neglected.

Since Girls and Boys Town is not a detention centre, youth prison or secure care facility, even the very small percentage of youngsters who have been involved in minor misdemeanours are placed into our therapeutic residential centres via the Children’s (and not criminal) Court, where these youth do not require lock down and can be placed in the ‘open’ environment of a Girls and Boys Town Centre.

Our centres are not mini-jails; youngsters placed at Girls and Boys Town therapeutic residential Centres are not serving a sentence, nor are they kept under lock and key. Because there are no fences, a youngster must want to stay at a Girls & Boys Town in order to heal, blossom and then Shine™.

Residential Alternatives:

Girls and Boys Towns are registered as Children’s Homes, while the alternatives are invariably institutions run by the State – more commonly known as ‘Places of Safety’, ‘Schools of Industry’ and ‘Reformatories’.

The essential difference is one of approach to the social, personal or family challenge that results in the youngster coming into care.

Girls and Boys Town staff work with youth and families to address obstacles through programmes of self-government and family-style living, that focus on social skills development, decision-making and character/values formation. State Institutions tend to view formal education as the solution. 

Early Intervention and Preventative Alternatives:

Girls and Boys Town offers alternatives to residential care.  Our National Family Service teams try, wherever possible, to work with and strengthen families and their children in their homes and communities in order to prevent the removal of a child – assuming that the risks to the child/children can be managed within the family.

The GBT National Hotline Service assesses the callers needs and refers the child, parent, care-giver or educator to an accessible resource that is likely to support the caller an assist them in seeking and securing the appropriate support system and resource.

Youth are referred to Girls & Boys Town by the GBT National Hotline Service, family, friends, clergymen, doctors and psychologists – but mostly by social workers.

Youth are placed after the home circumstances have been assessed and where authorities consider the Girls and Boys Town programmes to be the best option for the child’s needs and difficulties.

Our general policy is to have youngsters at Girls and Boys Towns for the shortest possible period. After all, their rightful place is in the community with their family.

Ideally, a youngster would be with us for no more than two years before returning home as a responsible, contributing member of the family and community.  The duration of a child’s stay though depends on their progress against their referral issues and the progress of the family developing the skills to avert any risk to the child.

Our policy has always been to help youth of all religious beliefs. Father Flanagan stressed the need for spiritual development – he put it this way: ‘Every child should learn to pray: how he prays is up to him.’ In keeping with this principle, all youth practice their religious beliefs while at Girls and Boys Town.

After many years of planning and pleading with the State licencing authorities, Boys Town officially announced its change of name to “Girls & Boys Town South Africa” in November 2004, and opened the ‘Alpha” therapeutic Family Home in Claremont, Cape town in January 2005. This was our first residential centre for girls.  We then established Kagiso Family Home, the therapeutic Youth Development Centre for girls in Gauteng and the Verulam Family Home for girls in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Girls and Boys Town had, however, been assisting girls for many years through our National Hotline (which offers counselling and advice services to families and young people) as well as programmes offered to families, schools and care providers via our Training and Resource Centres.

A thriving Alumni Association, where we find successful Girls and Boys Town ‘graduates’ in all walks of life, is testimony to our work and how Girls and Boys Town have helped youth to Shine™.

As a result of the GBT/UJ ‘Growth Beyond the Town’ Longitudinal Research project we are increasing better able to empirically assess how our young people are coping with life challenges having transitioned into independence and how we can increasingly better prepare them for ‘life in the real world’.  As we gain specific and improved insights year on year, these findings are shared with the field in impacting positively on the profession both locally and internationally.

For more on our research please click here.

This is the most exciting extension of the organisation’s work as we grow and develop our knowledge and practices to enhance the outcomes for beneficiaries so that they too can Shine™ into the future!

For the past years we have, within our Training Centres, been pioneering, adapting and training accredited programmes.

These hold out the most promise for youth, parents, families, educators, schools and communities in South Africa.

For more details of these and other programmes please click here.

About 80% of our funds are raised by our own staff from the general public, while the State assists with a small monthly subsidy. However, this amount is hardly adequate to meet the needs of vulnerable youngsters, families and communities overcome their barriers in order to Shine™.

Lack of finances would never be a reason for Girls and Boys Town to turn away a youngster or family needing care – or schools, parents and professionals needing our Training Programmes.

To partner with us and join our family of donors and sponsors, please click here.  

Yes – Girls & Boys Town is registered as a Public Benefit Organisation (PBO) in terms of the Income Tax Act. Gifts to Girls and Boys Town are tax deductible to the individual or Company donor, qualifying the donor for a tax deduction and BBBEE points.

Girls and Boys Town has an ‘open door’ policy and visitors are most welcome – not only because it’s important that our girls and boys have contact with the outside world, but also because, the better the knowledge about Girls and Boys Town, the greater will be the support and awareness of the programmes we offer.

To arrange a visit, simply contact any of the Girls and Boys Town Fundraising Offices located in the major cities of South Africa, or contact us to find a Girls and Boys Town Centre or office near you.

Many individuals demonstrate their concern for children and find satisfaction in giving them the one gift they deserve most – a chance to Shine™. There are a number of ways in which you can partner with us and invest in our youngsters and extend the work of Girls and Boys Town:

  • Help sponsor a girl or boy by contributing a monthly/annual sum towards her/his development.
  • Make a gift of money or provision in your will for a bequest to Girls and Boys Town. Our FREE Booklet on Wills is available on request.
  • Visit one of our Centres and tell others of the work of the Organisation and its programmes.
  • Provide work/study opportunities for our girls and boys when they leave our programmes.
  • Volunteer your skills

If you would like to sponsor a girl or boy or would like to be placed on a mailing list for our publications, please contact us on (011) 482-2655 or e-mail mailing@gbtown.org.za

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