Our mandate is to investigate and intervene in all cases where children are at risk. Using the appropriate tools, our social workers assess each situation reported and determine a plan of action based on their assessment.
Our first response is to try and find solutions to the problems in the child’s circumstances. However, in severe neglect or abuse cases, we cannot avoid removing a child from their home environment.
Children in dire circumstances are removed to a place of safety, which is, more often than not, a volunteer who has been through the necessary screening and training. In these circumstances, the social worker with get a court order for the placement of the at-risk child that will last for up to 3 months
With the upsurge in serious cases of neglect or abuse, it is a struggle to find suitable places of safety for these vulnerable children.
If the child cannot be returned to their home after the investigation period, we will apply to the Children’s Court to place the child in foster care with a foster parent or at a Child and Youth Care Centre.
The crisis calls for caring people to offer their homes and families as sanctuaries for children who have been rescued from dire circumstances.
- Safety Parents
These are the people who can receive a child immediately after removal. The traumatized child will need much compassion and tender care. These placements often last for up to three months, after which the social worker will place the child in a longer-term placement. Safety parents must be strong, stable and courageous people who receive a child directly from difficult circumstances. The trauma of neglect and abuse leaves any child with deep emotional scars. The safety parent also needs to be resilient and adaptable, able to cope with upheaval and the frustrations of difficult court processes. As a safety placement is temporary, the safety parent’s role is neutral, not trying to bring about any kind of change in the child but merely seeking to be a safe refuge from the storm that they have had to weather.
The vetting process for a safety parent will include the following:
- Screening includes an interview and home visit, followed by a social worker’s report.
- Application to the Department of Social Development for approval to provide temporary safe care. Our social workers will guide the prospective safety parent through this process.
- Criminal record check. This is done through a private company, carries a cost of R200, and requires an application form and certified copy of the person’s identity document.
- Application to establish if the prospective safety parent’s name is included in Part B Of The National Child Protection Register. Our social workers will make this application and require a signed consent form for the check.
- Confirmation of banking details for a temporary safe care grant. A signed BAS form is required, as well as a recent signed and stamped confirmation letter from a bank.
- Foster parents
These are people who can take care of a child in need for the longer term. Although it is a sizeable commitment, no one can overestimate the impact that such a person can have on the life of a fellow human being. Although the court order is usually for a two-year period (until 18 years in extraordinary circumstances), the foster parent assumes full responsibility for the child’s care and development – under the guidance of the social work case manager. This is a full-time commitment needing great fortitude and compassion: The foster parent will often encounter difficult issues as a result of a child’s traumatic past. The vetting process for a safety parent will include a similar process as described above for a safety parent.
The following characteristics are what we will be looking for in a safety and foster parent:
A stable home life is essential for any prospective safety or foster parent. Receiving a child from a troubled background into your home can be an unnerving and difficult thing that will impact your life. Solid family relationships are essential.
We are looking for prospective safety or foster parents that are wanting to help for the right reasons. Children in need of care are not a means of financial gain or cheap labour.
Adequate home environment
Prospective safety or foster parents do not need to have all the resources in the world, but their home must be adequate and conducive to allow the child to be nurtured safely and where their privacy will be respected.
Riches do not guarantee the effectiveness of a prospective safety or foster parent. However, with a safety/foster care grant, the prospective safety or foster parent must be able to supply the child’s basic needs.
Role models are critical for children from difficult circumstances. Prospective safety or foster parents have the ability to give hope through good relationships, responsible living and caring attitudes.
Although not essential, prospective safety or foster parents with parenting experience will have an advantage.