File photo: Marcel Oosterwijk,

The Department of Social Development says it is struggling to find foster homes for disabled children.

More than 34 000 children are in foster care in the Western Cape.

Briefing a joint sitting of the Western Cape legislature’s standing committee on community development and community safety, the department said 34 188 children had been placed with 28 093 foster parents in the province. The department’s chief director of Social Welfare Services, Charles Jordan, said the Winelands had recorded the highest number, with 7 716 in foster care.

“Children numbering 6 735 come from the metro east, 5 682 from the metro north and 5 410 from the metro south.”

Jordan said the rest were comprised of 5 881 children from the Eden Karoo and 2 764 from the West Coast.

He highlighted the challenges, such as institutional arrangements, inter-sectoral challenges, lack of human resources and the absence of an integrated information management system. The system has caused huge backlogs, with 743 foster-care court orders requiring urgent extension.

He said the province had been experiencing backlogs because court orders placing children in homes must be extended every two years.

“Only the court can put a child or an orphan in the care of a family. Every two years we have to extend that period.”

Jordan said the department was behind because some children had moved to other provinces, documents were outstanding and there had been difficulty tracing parents. “We’ve got 90 days to prepare all documents for a child to get the court order. We do use the Sassa grant system in partnership with Sassa to trace foster parents who have moved without informing the department. We temporarily place a stop payment on the grant and those foster parents quickly come to the fore with their addresses and contact details.

“The department has been struggling to find foster parents for disabled children. There are not enough parents interested in taking care of a disabled child. People are scared of looking after disabled children. We have 800 to 1 000 disabled children who need to be placed…”

Jordan said the department was always looking for parents who want to be trained to become a foster parent for a disabled child.

Western Cape police commissioner Major-General Khombinkosi Jula briefed the committees on the processes of police clearance for children in foster-care homes.

He said applications were processed at a central location in Pretoria and there was no separate data base for foster-care parents.

Jula said they could not tell the committee what the extent of the backlog for police clearance in foster-care cases were.

He said there was a need to fast-track clearance reports in foster-care applications, but at present the system and figures available included all applications received.

“The system cannot identify and categorise applications just for foster-care children. Whether it will be possible to program it so it separately identifies applications is worthy of being explored.”

Cape Argus