DA Gauteng MPL Refiloe Nt’sekhe. File photo: (DA website)

JOHANNESBURG - A shocking 925 children are still waiting to be placed in foster care by the Gauteng social development department, the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.

According to the department’s third quarter report, the delay in placing children in need of foster care in foster care homes was due to the delay in placing adverts and obtaining relevant reports from psychologists and psychiatrists, as well as obtaining the relevant legal documents from prospective foster parents, DA spokeswoman Refiloe Nt’sekhe said.

"This shows poor planning on the part of the department and that the placement of children in foster care is not a priority. According to the 2016/2017 annual report, the department failed to employ 130 social worker bursary holder graduates," she said.

In addition to this Gauteng only had 11 social workers who specialised in foster care placements. This was unsustainable considering the case load per social worker.

"This is unacceptable, as the core mandate of the department is to ensure the well-being of all vulnerable groups, particularly children. Social development is responsible for the heart of government and for looking after the well-being of the most vulnerable. By failing to place children in foster care, they are denying children the opportunity to be raised in a loving family environment," Nt’sekhe said.

Children were instead left in institutions, namely child and youth care centres (CYCC). The department also knew first-hand that children who flourished were those brought up in a loving home. This demonstrated once again that the African National Congress-led government "has become mired in its own inefficient and ineffective processes". These inefficiencies kept children institutionalised.

The DA called on social development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza to ensure that that all children in need of foster care be placed as a matter of urgency. She should also ensure that the department had measures in place to ensure the speedy placement of children in foster care. The MEC should fast-track the specialised training and appointment of social workers to ensure that the children of Gauteng were moved out of institutions and into homes.

"This means that they will have access to healthcare services, sufficient food, water, and social assistance if needed. Love is one of the most important ingredients for a growing child," Nt’sekhe said.

African News Agency/ANA