Philosophy of Care
Canaan Care Centres will provide an appropriate and therapeutic environment, in which children with disabilities can develop the skills necessary to reach their full potential. We will offer a high standard of care and a personalised approach to support work, which encourages growth and promotes independence.
Brief History and Overview

Canaan Care Centres is a non-profit organisation designed to support children from birth to 16 years old with severe physical disabilities and profound Learning Disabilities. Formally the Foden Centre, Canaan was opened in 2006 with a leap of faith, R100 in the bank and a committee of parents who wanted a place of safety and specialized care for their children. Our vision of person-centred support is to start with the child and build a programme around their needs. We encourage positive expectations by highlighting the child’s strengths and achievements while not losing sight of their disability and individual challenges. Over the years the school has gone from strength to strength, and although remaining open has not always been easy (and at times almost financially impossible), as long as there are children and families in need of the essential support we are able to provide, we will strive to remain present in the community.

Special School

Canaan Care Centres offers a Special School environment for children aged from birth to 16 years old with severe physical disabilities and profound Learning Disabilities.

.Our Special School will provide;

  • A high ratio of qualified staff to numbers of children.

  • Full care; toileting, changing, washing, dressing, feeding, moving and positioning.

  • Stimulation, activities and play.

  • Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy  and Sensory Integration Therapy.

  • Alternative treatments such as aqua therapy, animal therapy, light and music therapy.

  • Staff trained in specialised treatments such as suctioning and cupping for children who develop a lot of phlegm and are too weak to cough, or splinting and strapping for children with cerebral palsy.

  • Adaptive education, lessons in life skills and independence development sessions.

  • A full menu consisting of breakfast, lunch and snacks designed by a qualified dietician.

  • Support and education for the parents / guardians and primary care givers.

Boarding Facility

A safe and homely boarding facility for up to 8 children is available Monday to Thursday during term time for children attending the Special School. Two house mothers offer full care and support, cook an evening meal and coordinate a variety of fun activities before starting a relaxing bedtime routine. Our aim is to eventually expand our premises to be able to accommodate more residential children, and also to remain open over weekends and public holidays, thus allowing children whose families live outside East London the opportunity to attend Canaan.  The residential facility is hugely beneficial to children who need a more structured routine, or who (for medical reasons) cannot cope with the daily travel back and forth from school. 


Canaan Care Centres is a  special needs school for children with severe physical disabilities and profound Learning Disabilities. We can enroll children from birth, and they generally stay with us until they turn 16. Simply put, our job is to provide a safe, stimulating and therapeutic environment in which children with disabilities can grow to their full potential. We encourage independence, personal growth, hard work and plenty of fun. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with any of the children at Canaan Care Centres, or any child with a disability. Canaan does not focus on typical preconceptions of progress, or on “fixing” the children our society has labelled as broken. The goal is to improve the child’s quality of life, finding practical solutions to help both the child and their family work with what they have. Where there are challenges, we will find a way to overcome them, and by putting more emphasis on the talents and skills of the individual child we can encourage them to grow and develop. Really, our only goal is to help them become the best version of themselves they can be.


No two children’s needs are the same. Every child (whether or not they have a disability) is worthy of love and support, and has the right to be treated with dignity and compassion. There are currently 27 children in attendance at Canaan and most of these have severe Cerebral Palsy. Of these children most are unable to walk, and are almost completely unable to move independently. Besides not being able to play, or investigate the world for themselves, they rely on their care workers to feed, change, clean and move them. Either due to their physical disability or their mental capacity, none of the children are able to use meaningful speech, so the staff need to be highly proficient in alternative forms of communication, such as tracking eye movements or tiny changes in body language, listening carefully to the limited sounds a child is able to make,

or evaluating mood and monitoring their behaviour. The challenges these children face every single day are too many and too diverse to explain for one to fully appreciate, but there is truly no challenge too great. There is always a way, and the staff at Canaan will do everything they can, investing every ounce of energy, patience, knowledge and faith into meeting the needs of every child.


Canaan offers Occupational and Physiotherapy from four external professionals from in and around East London. Various members of staff have also been trained in providing therapies such as Sensory Integration, Music, Art, Aqua, Pet and Light Therapy. The special menu is planned with the help of a dietician, and every day includes an energy packed breakfast, a high protein lunch and an assortment of healthy snacks and fun treats. As many of our children are epileptic, we are starting to introduce the Ketogenic diet, which some research suggests can help reduce seizures by up to 90%.  Unlike a mainstream school or day care where there is one programme that all the children follow, every child that attends Canaan is individually assessed, has a personalized care plan and receives a 

unique programme designed to meet every need of that specific child. Emphasis is placed on developing independence, promoting self-confidence and working towards long term goals and planning for the future. Every child uses an assortment of equipment depending on their needs; standing frames, walkers, specially designed chairs and positioners, bean bags, wedges, foot and hand splints, therapy balls and crawling aids.


Planning activities, games and lessons for children that cannot walk, use their hands, sit up without assistance or talk is not only a huge challenge, but requires a lot of staff and a lot of planning. Almost everything we use has been specially adapted, not only to work for the children but also when you consider the limited space with which we have to work. For example, our washing line doubles up as a merry-go-round with swings, and our trampoline is also a ball pit. Generally the children spend their mornings receiving massages to ease any stiffness or pain and prepare them for the day’s physiotherapy ahead. Lunch can take a long time, as every child needs assistance with feeding, and several children need highly skilled carers to help them eat as they have serious 

difficulties with swallowing. After lunch we settle into a more relaxed afternoon, with games and books and sensory activities. We have had a projector installed and a television in every classroom where the children can watch documentaries and movies, although their favourites are the home videos of what they get up to at school.


Without the support of our local community Canaan Care Centres simply would not exist. Although the parents contribute towards the cost, it would be unrealistic to place the whole financial burden on them. Instead we rely on monthly pledges, donations and people offering their time and skills. In previous years we have been lucky enough to receive Lotto funding, and in return for a large quantity of paperwork we receive a small but crucial monthly contribution from the Department of Social Development. Local Schools such as Clarendon High have adopted us as one of their house charities, and are not only generous with donations but also with their time. They often come to visit the children as volunteers, however on their last visit they actually asked me if I needed anything cleaning…even dishes! This kind of thoughtfulness is sometimes just 

the kind of support you need! There are some very special people in all of our lives at Canaan; apart from the carers, who have dedicated years of their lives to this simultaneously rewarding and exhausting line of work, we have some truly wonderful volunteers who consistently go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure every day of the children’s lives are happy and fulfilled.