The Department of Social Development on Tuesday said it was committed to clearing foster care backlogs. File picture: Bonile Bam.

JOHANNESBURG - The Department of Social Development on Tuesday said it was committed to clear the foster care backlogs and that it noted with concern misleading media reports about North Gauteng High court on foster care orders that could lapse at the end of November 2019. 

Spokesperson Lumka Oliphant said as the deadline for the implementation of the North Gauteng High Court order on foster care approaches, the national and provincial departments of social development reiterated their commitment to work with speed to ensure no child in foster care placement falls through the cracks.

"The Citizen article is inaccurate as no foster care order has lapsed to date. The figures presented to (the) parliamentary portfolio committee are projections of foster care cases that provincial departments are working hard to extend before the foster care order lapses at the end of November."

"The article was written and published with the malicious intention to taint the name of the department and to cause panic among vulnerable children and foster care families. 

"The article conveniently and blatantly ignores to mention the progress the department has registered with regard to the implementation of a long lasting comprehensive legal solution to the foster care system as directed by the North Gauteng High Court," Oliphant said.

She said that in its presentation to the portfolio committee, the department highlighted it had submitted the children’s Amendment Bill of 2019, which was approved by cabinet in March this year for tabling in Parliament. 

Key among others, the bill seeks to amend Section 159 of the children’s Act to make provision for discretion to extend lapsed foster care orders or issue interim orders while clause 60 seeks to make provision for quality assurance of child protection services.

"The bill has been submitted to the leader of government business as part of this year’s legislative programme. In addition, the department has developed the child care and protection policy to strengthen the existing child care protection system in South Africa."

"The article also blatantly ignores to mention the progress the department has registered in addressing the acute shortage of social work professionals to address the backlogs and also to deal with new foster care cases.  

"To date, the department has absorbed 566 social work graduates who benefited from its social work scholarship programme," Oliphant said.

"In addition, the department engaged social work veterans to provide ongoing supervision to new recruits especially on foster care related matters."

She said the department’s report to the portfolio committee showed that provinces were currently working through the children’s courts to extend foster care orders, inclusive of new children’s court inquiries, which were not affected by the November deadline. 

Other initiatives to clear the backlogs include closer cooperation with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the setting up of dedicated Children’s Courts to expedite the extension of foster orders that are due to lapse.

African News Agency (ANA)