A closer look at foster care in Gauteng
Foster care is the temporary placement of a child who needs care and protection. The child is placed in the care of a suitable person who is neither their biological parent nor guardian. Foster care is one of the components of alternative care for children.
Legislation on Foster Care
The Children’s Act 38 of 2005 Amended in 2007, Chapter 12, outlines in detail how foster care should be carried out and the responsibilities of all involved stakeholders. The Gauteng Department of Social Development (GPDSD) is the forerunner of programmes promoting the well-being, protection care of Children’s rights as stated in Chapter 2 Section 28 of the South African Constitution.
Execution of mandate by GPDSD and primary stakeholders
What has been observed through the GPDSD strategic documents is the inclusion of outputs and outcomes relating to children whether vulnerable or not. Foster Care placement and provision of psychosocial support are some of the programmes that the Department has committed to contribute. The Department of Justice through the Children’ Courts, Non-Governmental Organizations, are some of the key stakeholders on foster care related matters.
The Children’s Courts have been identified as one of the key stakeholders in the finalization of cases, through the provision of court dates and issuing final judgements based on the required evidence. Should the latter be insufficiently resourced, it may also delay the finalization of cases. There is also interest in the capacity of the GDSD to carry out its responsibility prior to receiving court dates and ensuring that all required processes and documentation are available.
Zooming in on Portfolio Committee concerns
The Portfolio Committee on Social Development has engaged with the Department on these issues, their role and that of its stakeholders. Noting the challenges faced by the Department on shortage of social work services, there is a need to also investigate such.
By the end of the 2019/20 financial year, the Department reported having 540 cases which were less than the annual target of 1 338 cases. Although this figure was at 1 325 in 2016/17 FY, increasing to 3 555 in 2017/18 FY and a decrease 602 in 2028/19 FY. The Committee remains concerned as the number represents the fact that vulnerable children are still in need of alternative care.
The Committee has further noted with concerns the reasons for the negative deviation reported by the GPDSD on the foster care placements. This has always been attributed to difficulties in obtaining relevant psychological reports, different interpretation of the Act by different courts, amongst others.
Noting that the GPDSD has reported being in constant contact with its partners on foster care related matters and have reported positive feedback, however, there are still uncertainties on whether these initiatives are addressing foster care placement backlogs with the speed it deserves.
Resolving the issue
The continuing negative deviation from target and unchanging reasons provided by the Department necessitates a need for the Portfolio Committee to conduct and engagement session with stakeholders involved as part of oversight and public participation not only to review the existing processes in place, but also to identify areas for improving on service delivery.
Aims of the Seminar
- To understand reasons behind backlogs
- To study and review current processes on foster care applications and placements
- To identify areas to be addressed in order to enhance service delivery
Focus of the seminar
- Number of cases received per month.
- Systems in place to process applications.
- Partnership in service delivery.
- Human Resources.
- Organisational Resources.
- Inter-Institutional Challenges (Children’s courts and SASSA).
Be part of the webinar by streaming live on the Gauteng Provincial Legislature’s YouTube Channel on Thursday, 10 June 2021 at 10:00.