The Ministry of Social Development has noted the misleading media reports on foster care orders.
The Department of Social Development wishes to state categorically that it is well aware of the foster care cases to be dealt with by 31 December 2017 and has a plan in place that is currently being implemented timeously with Provincial Departments of Social Development. It should be noted that the department has been submitting progress reports to the high court on the implementation of the project plan; the last and final report is expected to be submitted in December 2017 which will show how the backlog has been cleared and what systems have been put in place to ensure that the provisions of the children's Act are adhered to by Provinces.
The assumption made by the two publications that all foster care orders will automatically lapse on December 31 is untrue / not correct as it neglects to consider the measures put in place by the Department through its foster care project plan approved by MINMEC already in 2011. This work was also supported by the appointment of the Ministerial committee to assess the systemic issues and recommend policy review and foster care reforms. The said committee's final report has been used to inform policy and legislative reforms on foster care.
This plan is currently being executed through the implementation of the activities of the foster care project plan in all nine provinces and has subsequently increased efficiency in case management, as well as allocation of required resources to effectively manage the foster care programme. The Department of Social Development receives monthly reports on the progress made by Provinces which has managed to reduce backlog significantly to date.
The projected backlog of 54 835 foster care orders from September to December 2017, which is currently being reviewed on weekly basis, is a disaggregated number according to the nine provinces and is managed carefully and monitored on monthly basis.
In addition to the project plan, Provinces have sustainability plans reflecting targets, activities to deal with the set targets with clear timelines and the allocation of required resources to manage the programme. There are also risk mitigation plans to avert lapsing of foster care orders from hereon. The provincial plans are monitored at District level through the collaboration of dedicated task teams from the Department of Social Development and SASSA. There is also high level oversight by Heads of Social Development in provinces working with Welfare Services Forum and Provincial Fora's. This in itself demonstrates the state of readiness by provinces to revert to the provisions of the Act after the expiry of the North Gauteng High Court Order in December 2017.
It is mischievous of the journalists to choose words like "dismissed" when the Department categorically stated that it WILL be able to manage the projected number of 54 835 foster care orders as required.
The Department of Social Development also states that no grants will be unpaid because of the projected foster care court orders to expire in December 2017, given the systems put in place by the department to deal with the backlog and use the provisions of the Children's Act and also of the Social Assistance Act.
Contrary to the a mischievous assertion that the department has not embarked on the legal reform and in addition to the systemic and administrative mechanisms that the department is strengthening, the Department of Social Development, the South African Social Security Agency and the Centre for Child Law are working together to find a comprehensive legal reform with the introduction of the extended child support grant through the amendment of the Social Assistance Act. The extended support grant will take the pressure away from the foster care system by making provision for orphaned and abandoned children in the care of family members. Furthermore, the Department of Social Development is currently busy with the amendments of the Children's Act to support the management of foster care in the future through the policy position that is undertaken to recognise non statutory placement of orphaned and abandoned children who are not in need of care and protection in the care of family members. These children will be recognised without having to go through court systems. However such will be provided with prevention and early intervention services to ensure that they receive comprehensive protection and access to basket of services and be monitored to ensure that they do not become vulnerable and fall into the formal child protection system which includes statutory services.
The department is strengthening implementation of section 186 through building capacity of supervisors to provide adequate supervision. Utilisation of social service practitioners to monitor foster care placement and refer to social workers for required social work intervention.
Issued by: Department of Social Development