By Emily Setona
QWAQWA – The Children’s Amendment Bill public hearing has seen the emergence of pertinent issues raised by citizens, such as the criteria that social workers use to determine if a child is an orphan or not and the shortage of social workers in Maluti–a–Phofung (MAP), that is creating a backlog in foster care cases.
The director of children’s legislation, monitoring and reporting, Matlhogonolo Sebopela, said times are changing and it is important for the legislature to make sure that the law is in line with current challenges that take place in communities.
“What we are bringing here today is the changes that the DSD has proposed to make to the Children’s Act. Sometimes a woman goes to study or work in the city and later comes home pregnant or with a child. The grandparents don’t know the father to this child. Later when their daughter dies this child loses their mother and the father is unknown. The law seeks to consider this child as an orphan,” Sebopela said.
According to Sebopela, a court order was issued against the Minister of Social Development to address the challenges of foster care, that pertain to the backlogs because social workers make applications and then the process gets stuck at the courts. Few social workers deal with a lot of cases and following up on each and every case can be a difficult task. The Minister was requested to provide a legal solution to address these backlogs.
During the question and answer session, grandparents who take care of their deceased daughters’ children supported the proposal for children whose fathers are unknown to be classified as orphans.
Mohau Moqabolane. a social worker from Free State Care in Action that is based in Harrismith, stated that there are not enough social workers for all the cases of children that need to be placed in foster care.
“Free State Care in Action is a non-profit organization that takes care of orphans and abandoned children,” Moqabolane said.
A representative of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) mentioned that since June this year, the orphan child grant will go up to R720 and guardians can go to their local SASSA offices to get assistance.
Free Sate Legislature chairperson of public accounts portfolio committee Vusimusi Tshabalala encouraged participants to ask questions if they do not understand.