BLACK SASH MEDIA STATEMENT – CHILD PROTECTION WEEK
For Immediate Release: Monday, 23 May 2011
The Black Sash is calling for an urgent review of the “flawed and overburdened” foster care system. Speaking at the start of National Child Protection Week (23-29 May), the human rights organisation says onerous administrative and legal procedures, coupled with a severe shortage of social workers and magistrates, have created massive backlogs, compromising the care and protection of hundreds of thousands of needy and vulnerable children.
According to the latest Child Gauge, only half of the nearly one million children in South Africa who have lost both parents currently receive a Foster Child Grant. Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager Ratula Beukman says all orphans ought to be considered wards of the state, and as such, should be entitled to social assistance. “The foster care system inherited from Apartheid days is ill-equipped to cope with the scale of the need. It is geared towards removing children from abusive domestic situations and as such, rightfully requires extensive checks and balances, including psychological intervention and monitoring. But it is simply too cumbersome and inadequately resourced to swiftly and efficiently process the growing number of children who are orphaned or left without parental care as a result of our high levels of poverty, HIV/Aids and other related illnesses,” explains Beukman.
The R740 a month Foster Child Grant is the only social assistance grant that is not “means tested” and is awarded when a magistrate hands down the foster care order. However, the Black Sash has recently come across numerous cases in which magistrates are denying the Foster Child Grant to parents that they believe have “sufficient means” to care for the child. Beukman says in one particular case, the magistrate denied the grant to a foster child as he claimed other children in the household were receiving Child Support Grants. “It is dangerous and unacceptable for magistrates to use their discretionary powers to decide whether or not foster children deserve financial support. It is a direct violation of the Social Assistant Act as well as the child’s right to social protection. As a society, we should be honouring those adults who are prepared to take care of children who are not their own. They are true heroes and shouldn’t have to grovel for this small amount of State support,” insists Beukman.