The Democratic Alliance (DA) is appalled, disappointed, but not surprised, by the failure of the Department of Social Development (DSD) that led to the backlog in the South African foster care system.
The DSD this week made a presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Social Development about the state of the foster care system, where the crucial question was the backlog of foster care orders.
It was revealed that by November 2019, there will be over 128 00 orders that will have lapsed, and 68 000 by the end of July 2019. These lapsed orders indicate that 128 000 children have not been checked up on by the DSD. This means that we don’t know whether those children are still safe or whether the situation has improved with regards to reuniting such children with their families. This is also indicative of the fact that the DSD has not visited the child nor monitored their situation in a period of two years.
The foster-care system is failing a number of South Africa’s vulnerable children.
Section 158 of the Children’s Act allows the children’s court to review the foster care order every two years unless the court specifies a shorter period and,
Section 159 (1)(a) of the Children’s Act demands that a foster care order issued by the children’s court lapses on expiry two (2) years from the date it was issued.
Therefore, an orphaned child has to be placed in the child protection system to qualify for the Foster Care Grant. This means that for orders from a Children’s Court to be up to date, and to ensure the safety of a child, orders must be backed up by constant monitoring and treatment.
The primary concern of the foster care system is to offer support to children in need of protection from abuse and neglect, but without these orders, social workers are unable to guarantee the safety of these children and they are unable to reunite them with their families.
In addition, without these orders, people caring for children in foster care cannot apply for the Foster Care Grant (FCG). This will result in thousands of children and their caregivers being left without the financial lifeline they often desperately need.
It is clear from the committee meeting that we have been sitting with this problem since 2010, with no plan to solve the situation.
It is the responsibility of the DSD to provide measures that mitigate the ongoing lapse of court orders. The DA will thus be writing to the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, to get clarity and assurance regarding the following:
- How is the Department dealing with the crisis in the foster care system? Can she ensure the safety of every child in the system? Has the Department made an application for funding from the National Treasury to cater for the challenges in the foster care system, especially the social worker funding? And what were the outcomes of such an application?
Previously during the 5th term of Parliament, the Portfolio Committee on Social Development asked the Department to approach the National Treasury to request more funding to deal with challenges pertaining to the Foster Care System. Little answers were provided this week and the DA will therefore also be writing to the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, to ask whether the Department has indeed requested additional funding. This follows all MEC’s and Heads of Department representing provinces at the said meeting, confirming that they don’t have enough social workers nor sufficient tools of trade to ensure these backlogs are cleared.
It is the Portfolio committee’s responsibility to exercise oversight to ensure the department has adequate resources to meet its operational requirement.
The DA hopes that there is an improved desire to serve the public from the department and that all necessary resources will be directed accordingly to make a difference to advance the lives of the most vulnerable members in our society.
Bridget Masango MP
DA Shadow Minister of Social Development
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