Court order to end foster care crisis

2011-05-10 22:57

Pretoria - The Centre for Child Law has obtained an urgent court order to stem a growing crisis which has resulted in the foster care system grinding to a halt.

Judge Roger Claassen granted an order in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday.

It gives the minister and provincial social development MECs until the end of 2014 to find solutions to the crisis that has put foster care children at risk of losing their government grants.

A solution could include amendments to the new Children's Act, which became operational in April last year.

Claassen granted an order allowing authorities to deal with the extension of foster care orders under an administrative process followed under previous legislation, notwithstanding the provisions of the Children's Act.

The new Act stipulates that foster care orders may only be extended by order of the Children's Court and does not provide for administrative extension of such orders as in the past.

The court order also reinstated foster care orders that had already lapsed.

The social welfare departments of the nine provinces were ordered to notify child protection organisations of the court order, which must also be published in the Government Gazette.

They must also direct social workers to identify and administratively extend relevant foster care orders and to inform the SA Social Security Agency about such orders.

The old administrative system would remain in place until the end of 2014, or until the Children's Act had been amended to provide for a more comprehensive legal solution.

Large numbers

An attorney of the Centre's Children's Litigation Project, Carina du Toit, said in an affidavit an estimated 123 236 children's foster care orders had lapsed by the end of January this year without being extended and a large number of such orders were due to expire each month.

Although the children affected continued to receive their foster care grants, despite the lapsed orders, the Social Security Agency could not continue with payments in the absence of orders indefinitely, because it was subject to strict auditing provisions.

She said this pattern was likely to continue unless a permanent solution was found. There was no reasonable prospect that the children's court rolls could accommodate such large numbers.

According to a senior Johannesburg social worker, Jackie Loffell, the foster care system had effectively ground to a halt with all the different role players paralysed by the current crisis.

Loffell identified the reasons for the systemic collapse as a combination of backlogs at the various provincial departments, the children's courts and the child protection organisations.

The backlogs were caused by a general shortage of social workers and a lack of capacity to process the extension of orders, as well as the sheer volume of foster care orders that needed to be accommodated in the children's courts.

Du Toit said the foster care crisis also created the problem that child protection organisations and departmental social workers were spending all their resources on resolving the crisis and de-prioritising other essential child protection services.

"This places vulnerable children at immense risk of not receiving necessary protection services.

"It is clear that immediate action is required to address the needs of the children whose foster care orders have already lapsed and to prevent the lapsing of foster care orders and the subsequent loss of the foster care grants.

"What is less clear is the final solution to the systemic crisis... The permanent solution may very well require an amendment to the Children's Act," Du Toit said.

  • Goddok - 2011-05-11 04:20

    Is there anything that this government do not screw up ? Disgusting!!!!!

      logical007 - 2011-05-11 07:33

      The lining of their back pockets.

  • Lizette - 2011-05-11 06:49

    and this is now the children of our country getting the short end!! I agree completely - is there ANYTHING this Government DON'T screw up!

  • Wow! - 2011-05-11 08:11

    The whole bloody country is grinding to a halt under the ANC government.

  • Kurt - 2011-05-11 10:35

    We have been foster parents to two african boys for the past eight years, prior to that for two girls. June 2010 (without notice) grant payments stopped (lapsed orders). Since then until today, not solved. It is not simply not receiving the grant, but even huge (for us) school fees become obligatory as one cannot produce a new order to prove custody to the school. We cannot punish the children for the absolute lack of commitment to them by the relevant government departments. Enquiries is an utterly frustrating affair, to put it very mildly. Will we opt for this again in future as both should matriculate in 2 years time? Based upon present experience, we simply will not be able to afford to do this. The government care? Do not make me laugh hysterically...

  • Mini-Mo - 2011-05-11 10:38

    Heartless gov.even putting Childrens’ life at risk just to increase their bank balances...BLACK GOV OR SHOULD I SAY ANC is really dragging SA TO HELL

  • Kurt - 2011-05-11 11:08

    Come to think of it, it is not simply the government that is to blame, but society in general. Let anyone 'attack' the appalling perfomance by some or other SA provincial rugby team or what filmstar has said 'what', the comments run into hundreds. How important is that? Come on really... Simply a reflection of the society we live in. Someone once said that all evil needs to conquer, is for good men and women to do nothing. Welcome all the 'good' men and women to the Club of Apathy.

  • fannyadams - 2011-05-11 12:00

    I have two boys which I have fostered - the one who is now 17 years old has been with me since he was 3 and the other is now 10 and I have had him since he was 3 weeks old. While I could not complain about the welfare and the system, it is now getting out of control. Every year the system changes - the social workers are sometimes clueless because the system changes so often and every 2 years the order has to be extended. The new law is now when you have your order extended you have to appear in court with the child. My 10 year old has no idea he is a foster child as both boys were fostered within the family, now he has to come to court with me. I realise he has a right to know and he will be told when he is older and he can understand, so what do we do now as the time is coming up for extension. I feel the whole system changes far too often and the courts and the social workers are very uncaring. We have applied to adopt the children and that has now also taken 2 years to date. You would think they would move on adoption, firstly, the government would save money and secondly to give the children a belonging feeling - the system at this stage sucks and I am very frustrated!!!!!!

  • Mordred - 2011-05-11 15:18

    I am never surprised at the government's incompetence but it just keeps getting worse. If Mthatha residents say that Mthatha has collapsed then they should also know that South Africa has collapsed. God help us with this incompetent and uneducated black government.

  • Gerda - 2011-05-28 13:17

    I, Gerda Keresztesi, am the grandmother of two small children - a boy Milo aged 5 and a girl Michelle aged 7 - who were in my care since birth as my daughter, Marina, is a heroin addict. Four years ago I earned a living as a market trader over weekends. Two women, Naomi Williams and Chantal van der Merwe (nee Okkers) who were members of the Lighthouse Christian Centre, offered to look after the children over weekends while I was at the market. I was touched by their kindness and generosity at the time. Unfortunately they became so attached to the children, that they began begging me to let them adopt them. I explained to them on several occasions that I was grateful for their help, but that my grandchildren were not available for adoption. As time went on these two women developed a cunning plan whereby they could enlist the cooperation of a social worker, Ancilla Adonis, from the Department of Social Development. They made a long list of ridiculous and false allegations against me, and of the one allegation guaranteed to get instant results, "Sexual molestation". Which I know not to be true. But before I was told about what was happening, this social worker came with 2 policemen on the 5 June 2007 to my home and took the children away and gave them to the women. Needless to say this was extremely traumatic for both myself and the children. The social worker just unconditionally believed everything the women had said. She never investigated the allegations or took my explanations into consideration. Indeed she wrote in her report that I am a dangerous and unstable person and threatened her with a weapon, which is totally untrue. The 2 policemen who were present would have certainly acted if I had threatened her in any way. My daughter and I were summoned to a commissioner, Ms Duimelaar two days later at the children's court. The commissioner and state prosecutor were very nervous, because of the stories made up by the social worker. The commissioner did not even consider my arguments. She was so concerned about her safety, that she had a group of people standing in front of her office and every now and then someone would jump into the office. During the proceedings she also asked us three times which entrance to the building we had used because she was concerned that I had brought a weapon along and even made a comment about the aggressive Germans. It had turned into hysteria. This happened 4 years ago and the children have been increasingly alienated from their family, language, culture and religious beliefs. It has been a struggle to get visitations to the children. We have been totally disowned of our children. The one “foster mother” Chantal van der Merwe, had even given the little boy another name and when I brought this fact to the social worker's, Ancilla Adonis, attention she simply denied it and said that I was just causing trouble and I was not allowed to see the children again for over a year. The social worker also said that she would personally make sure that I would never get the children back and that grandmothers have no legal rights to their grandchildren. This same social worker, Ancilla Adonis, was very arrogant and knew that her reports would be accepted unconditionally at the children' s court without questions or proof being required. Indeed her reports can be taken paragraph by paragraph and found incorrect. She even alleged that I was too drugged to look after the children properly. I have never in my life taken drugs or abused alcohol. Unfortunately the magistrate, Herman van der Merwe, is not interested in my explanations although I have people prepared to testify to the fact that I am of sober habits and that the children had been well cared for and happy. I had to apply in writing to be able to attend the court hearings and had to sit in the back of the court room and be quiet. Never the less the magistrate Herman van der Merwe, ordered this social worker to hand over the files to my local ACVV office in July 2009 in view of family reunification to start. Eventually only after a lawyer had made several phone calls to her superiors and written a letter she handed over the files 3 months later. Unfortunately the social workers I am dealing with now are constantly coming and going (I have had 10 social workers on my case so far) and nothing is happening. It takes up to 6 months to organize a visit for me to see the children. In April 2010 I wrote a letter to the magistrate, Herman van der Merwe, and in July 2010 he acknowledged the receipt of my letter and informed me that he is prepared to review the case and we met again in December 2010. At that hearing he established that I am of sane mind and that the social workers assigned to the case should take note of my letters. But things were not organized and a social worker who is not on the case anymore was summonsed and another social worker did not write a report. However the 4 social workers on the case decided that the children should visit me at home in view of them being returned to me. After the children were allowed to visit me for 3 Saturdays in March/April 2011, the “foster mothers” in a desperate attempt to keep the children, went to Magistrate Herman van der Merwe office and accused my landlord and friend, who has an apartment at the back of the house I rent, of being a child molester. And although there is no reason or proof for their accusations, the magistrate called an emergency hearing on the 20 April 2011 and said that if there is a possibility of the children being sexually molested, he cannot allow the children to come to my home. My friend has laid a charge of crimen injuria against the women. Over these 4 years I have written many letters to 3 consecutive MEC's of the Department of Social Development including Patricia de Lille and to many other institutions, but have received total disinterest and apathy. Although I have a good job and a steady income, I do not have the financial means for a lawyer. And now this case is dragging on and on while the children are growing up and do not know their real family nor can they speak their own language. I am very concerned that after all these years the social workers will say  that the children have bonded with their foster mothers and that it would be traumatic for them to be returned to their natural family and with that these women have legally stolen children from my family.

  • eleanor.dustan - 2013-04-07 11:43

    The crisis with our abandoned and orphaned children here in south africa is escalating at a rate that soon will not be managable. The goverment should step in and give some support to the shelters and orphanages that take care of these children. As far as I am concerned this is a growing problem and is getting out of hand.It seems that our presedent ZUMA only cares about his family and his children .I SAY TO YOU PRESEDENT ZUMA THESE CHILDREN ARE THE FUTURE OF THIS COUNTRY SEE IF YOU CAN HELP IN SOME WAY. SPEND R250,000,000.00 ON HOMES AND SHELTERS FOR THESE CHILDREN, SPEND SOME MONEY ON EDUCATION FOR THESE CHILDREN WE DON'T WANT ANOTHER CONGO,ZIMBABWE,RUANDA,AND MANY OTHER AFRICAN COUNTRIES THAT HAVE BEEN RUINED BECAUSE LEADERS ARE GREEDY AND JUST WANT FOR THEMSELVES, THE MOTHERS AND CHILDREN ARE ALWAYS THE ONES THAT SUFFER THE MOST .I PRAY THAT GOD WILL TOUCH YOUR HEART FOR OUR CHILDREN.

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