By Emsie Martin
To suddenly become a foster parent is not easy and although a foster parent’s primary task is to care for a child temporarily, it requires a great deal of commitment from the person becoming the foster parent.
Foster parents’ responsibilities
- Foster parents must meet the requirements of the state’s laws and the welfare organisation, as well as convey important information regarding the child to the foster care supervisor, and participate in decision-making regarding the child.
- Foster parenting also means being in partnership with the biological family and the organisation, as well as supporting the child during the placement.
- Foster parents are responsible for providing in the child’s basic needs and for the child’s blending with the family.
- As foster parents manage the care of the child on a full-time basis, they are often the most important source of information about how the child is adapting to the separation from his parents, his interaction with other children, and his progress in school.
The ultimate aim of foster care is to establish reunion with the foster child’s biological family. Reunion will take place when the child’s family has made satisfactory adaptations and changes to provide the children’s court with sufficient evidence that they can offer the child their safe and “meeting of needs” care.
More about foster care
If you are taking care of a child in need of care and protection, you can apply to the Department of Social Development or to an accredited child protection organisation to take the child in foster care. 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 not the child’s parent or guardian.
To become a foster child, the child must:
- Be younger than 18 years and/or
- Have been abandoned or orphaned and be without any visible support
- Show behaviour that cannot be controlled by the parent or caregiver
- Be homeless or begging for a living
- Be addicted to a habit-forming substance and without support to obtain treatment for such a dependency
- Be being exploited or exposed to exploitation
- Be exposed to danger in the care of the parent, guardian or caregiver
- Be in a condition of physical or mental neglect, ill-treatment or abuse by a parent, caregiver, person who has parental responsibilities and rights or is a family member of the child, or by a person under whose control the child is.
To qualify as a foster parent, you have to be:
- 18 years or older
- Suitable and competent
- Prepared to maintain and capable of maintaining the child
- Capable of providing an environment conducive to the child’s growth and development
You can only take a child in foster care for a period as contained in the court order. As soon as the indicated period of the court order has expired, the presiding officer can extent the period of the court order after consideration of the social worker’s recommendation.
What to do
- Apply at the nearest office of the Department of Social Development or an accredited child protection organisation.
- You will be referred to a social worker who will conduct an investigation.
- The social worker will evaluate the child’s circumstances.
- You will also be assessed and screened for suitability as foster parent.
Submit the following:
- A sworn declaration that the child has been abandoned (if applicable).
- Death certificates of the parents (if applicable).
- The child’s birth certificate (if applicable). If the child does not have a birth certificate, the social worker will assist you in obtaining one.
- Your identity document.
The biological parent/s and the child must be involved in the process.
- In cases where the child was abandoned or left orphaned, the social worker will assist with placing an advertisement in newspapers in which the parents are request to come forward within a month.
- The social worker will compile a report and submit it to the children’s court with recommendations.
- Based on the social worker’s report, the presiding officer of the court can find that the child needs care and protection.
- The presiding officer will issue a court order approving the placement of the child in foster care. The court order will contain the names of the foster parent, the foster child and the duration of the placement.
After the court order has been issued, you may apply for a foster care allowance at your nearest SASSA office. The child will also be exempted from the payment of fees at a state school or public health institutions. For the child to be exempted from payment of school fees, you will have to complete an application form obtainable from the school, and submit a copy of the court order.
The investigation and finalisation thereof differ from one case to the next.
How much does it cost?
The service is free.