Foster moms want officials axed

2012-06-11 00:00

A GROUP of foster mothers has called on the Department of Social Development in Howick to sack social workers they claim are racist and incompetent.

On Friday a petition containing their grievances was handed over to Chumile Fandesi, the department’s KZN spokesperson.

“It is our priority to sort out problems. We have an open-door policy and we have in the past tried to hold a forum where they can raise their issues,” said Fandesi.

“But we continue to offer opportunities for people to come together to talk and solve problems.”

A meeting has been scheduled this week between the department and foster moms.

It comes after repeated calls for officials to intervene in the deteriorating relationship between the two sides.

A magistrate was appointed earlier in the year to address complaints about the conduct of social workers, but little has come out of the appointment.

The petition demands an urgent investigation into the conduct of staff with the view to charges of gross negligence and dereliction of duty being pursued.

The mothers allege social workers:

• Remove children from foster care without court orders;

• Intimidate children at school;

• Target white moms housing black children and try to remove children against their best interests and place them back with families who are unable or unwilling to care for them; and

• Threaten to withhold grants if the foster mothers complain.

The problems began when the department tried to remove three foster children from Sharon Aurets without court papers. She looks after eight children.

She had to scramble to find a pro-bono lawyer to stop the children from being given to their 90-year-old grandfather.

Aurets told The Witness: “It is a joke. They have not paid me my foster grant for months and they expect me to buy household cleaning agents and keep the house in top condition, when I do my best to keep these kids fed. But they are willing to let an old man of 90 look after three children in a three-room shack and they have never even once done a house inspection.”

Aurets continued: “It’s blatant intimidation. I pray every day that these kids will one day finally be given permission to live with me so I can love them and care for them. I am not trying to save the world or steal anyone’s kids. I am trying to give these kids a better life.”

Other moms, in a meeting with The Witness, described the social workers as lazy, vindictive, racist and corrupt. They told harrowing stories of alleged abusive tactics used by social workers.

A girl in foster care was supposedly reunited with a distant relative but her brother refused to go. Three months later she was found prostituting herself on the trucking route, pregnant at the age of 13.

When the foster mother asked the social workers what had happened, they allegedly said: “You’re lucky you got rid of that rubbish!”

Another foster mother said a child in her care was kidnapped by her biological father, who wanted to see her for Christmas. He had shown no interest in her for six years.

She spent a fortune to get the traumatised child back. Her efforts to legally adopt the child have been ignored because Social Development “does not approve” of trans-cultural adoptions.

Numerous attempts in three weeks to get responses to the allegations from the department, both nationally and provincially, have failed.

• trish.beaver@witness.co.za

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