New adoption law may hit skills hurdle

2015-10-04 16:57

As government adds to the pool of adoption social workers in an attempt to help more people adopt, it may have run into the problem of lack of skills. 

Child-advocacy organisations have questioned the competency of state social workers to render adoption services, and they are calling for them to undergo the same intense skilling and accreditation process that private social workers go through. 

Government is proposing an amendment to the Children’s Act that will broaden the definition of social workers handling adoptions to include those in the employ of the state. It has said the aim is to curb the high cost of adoptions and make it easier for ordinary families to adopt. 

Currently, adoption practices are restricted to social workers in private practice and to those employed by child-protection organisations. 

While all the organisations that participated in the public hearings in Parliament last week supported the inclusion of state social workers, they want them to possess the same skills and undergo the same accreditation process that private agencies go through. They also want an independent body to have a final say in the accreditation of social workers. 

Currently, private agencies that process adoptions must be accredited by the director-general of social development. 

Parliament heard that private social workers must go through intense skills training because adoption is a specialised service and requires special skills. 

Lowina Fourie of Joburg Child Welfare said: “Our social workers do get extra special training. They are trained and assessed by a psychologist, so it is extra skills that is our concern.” 

Fourie said her organisation was worried that there was neither a specialisation nor accreditation requirement for social workers working for a state department. 

Fourie said that since it was the director-general of the department of social development who accredited organisations in terms of section 251 of the act, “it is submitted that, for the sake of transparency, such accreditation process should be overseen by an independent third party”. 

“It can’t be that the person who accredits us then also accredits themselves,” she answered when questioned by ANC MPs. 

While also welcoming the inclusion of state social workers in the definition of an adoption social worker, Julie Todd of Child Welfare SA warned that this would not be a “magic wand” that increased finalised adoptions. 

“The same accreditation must be required of state-employed social workers who specialise in adoptions, as it is for any social worker currently practising in the sector, [and] these accreditations need to be independently made because the department cannot accredit itself.” 

ANC MPs appeared perplexed by the call for the extra skilling of government social workers, and asked if the implication was that state social workers were not sufficiently qualified. They also did not buy the call for an independent party to oversee accreditation. 

“For me, this is not plausible enough, because this is a fundamental power that is entrusted to the jurisdiction of the director-general,” said ANC MP Solomon Patrick Mabilo. 

“I do not support that the powers be taken from the director-general. We know where they derive their powers from.” 

The department’s Tebogo Mabe said it would provide a criterion for state social workers because it was a requirement of the act for them to be accredited.

Read more on:    adoption  |  skills shortage

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