The Mpumalanga Health and Social Services Department celebrated International Day of Families in Witbank yesterday.
The celebrations are held every year to raise awareness about the critical importance of families as a basic unit in a society, as well as the roles that can be played by families in an endeavour to restore societal norms and values.
This year's theme focused on Families and Persons with Disabilities.
Mpumalanga MEC for health and social services William Lubisi said the UN last year marked an important milestone in the promotion and protection of the rights of disabled people by adopting the convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Lubisi said: "The convention notes that families should be a source of empowerment for people with disabilities."
Lubisi said sometimes families became over-protective and restricted the growth of people with disabilities.
"They are still viewed with stigma or shame and, in some instances, we treat them with abuse or neglect."
Because of the growing challenges of poverty, joblessness, crime and diseases, families were increasingly vulnerable and this called for urgent intervention mechanisms.
"In response to these challenges, we are capacitating our unit dealing with families so that we can adequately respond to the challenge," he said.
"One of the things we will be doing is increasing awareness and encouraging more people to adopt a child."