Concerns have been raised about the slow rates of unifying parents and children in foster care as the systems struggles with increasing number of children. FILE
Concerns have been raised about the slow rates of unifying parents and children in foster care as the systems struggles with increasing number of children. FILE

Only 8% of children in foster care reunited with families

By Tshego Lepule Time of article published Oct 17, 2021

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OF the 1 657 children placed in foster care this year, only 8% have reunited with their families as the system buckles under the pressures of increased need in child care.

This was according to MEC for Social Development Sharna Fernandez in response to a written question at the Western Cape Legislature on the number of children that were placed in foster care between January and August 2021.

The figures also showed that only 139 children were reunited with their parents.

An emergency foster care mother in Atlantis said weak controls in the system were making it difficult for parents to motivate themselves enough for reunification.

“There is a great need for foster care mothers in our community. I have had a child in my care since last year whose mother has not bothered with counselling. It is a known fact that she is on drugs but she has not taken a single drug test this year.

“We are meant to return to court next year but I foresee this poor child remaining in foster care because the mother is not incentivised to get help.

“We started a programme to get communities to sign up for training to become foster parents because of the great need that exists in our community with children in need of care away from their parents for a number of reasons,” she added.

According to Fernandez, between January and June, around 825 parents completed training programmes.

Fernandez’s spokesperson, Joshua Chigome, said last year the total number of children in foster care stood at 25 531, while as at the end of September 2021 it had increased to 35 988.

However, the Minister for Social Development in a parliamentary response said there were 32 209 individuals who were receiving foster child grants in the Western Cape, the country’s fifth highest figure.

Bonteheuwel community leader Henriette Abrahams said the plight of children in foster care systems was appalling and needed urgent attention.

“We live in areas where children are amongst the most vulnerable and get exposed to the social ills that plague our communities,” she said.

“While there is and will continue to be a need for children who have been removed from the care of their parents to be placed in places of safety, those homes also need to be closely monitored and continuously checked because children at times fall prey to unscrupulous foster parents.

“The government at its core continues to fail our children given the lack of support given to parents to foster an environment that will be secure enough to have their children reunited with them.

“We see such low rates of reunification because parents are not attending the necessary training required and it is the children who suffer. The figures we see are just the tip of the iceberg, those are the files that manage to go through the system and are not lost or misplaced for months on months. It is a broken system, I tell you.”

In Khayelitsha, a group of women belonging to the Wathinta Imbokodo organisation that has 150 foster parents, spoke out about their challenges with the department and their handling of placement of children in foster homes.

Nosipho Kibidu told sister publication Cape Argus that children were being moved from foster home to another without due process being followed and that some foster parents sometimes went months without receiving grant payments.

Chigome said the Social Assistance Amendment Act, which came into effect in January this year with the intention of facilitating the payments of foster care grants, had made some slight improvements.

“However there have been cases when the courts have not approved foster care grants in the Khayelitsha area when foster children are placed with families. This is indeed placing the children at a disadvantage,” he added.

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