The most recent statistics available about the Foster Care Grant suggest that nearly 400 000 children in South Africa are in foster care. Fostering is a critical part of the solution to take care of vulnerable children and offers them a place of safety and provision when their biological families are not able to provide this.
Beverley Beukes, MD of Oasis Haven, a registered Child and Youth Care Centre in Johannesburg, says that fostering fulfils its intended purpose best when both children and foster parents have the right support.
Beukes is a social worker who has been working with orphaned and vulnerable children for more than 20 years, and has fostered nine children with her husband. She says it’s important for foster parents to take up this important role with a realistic understanding of what it involves.
Simone Oketch, social worker at Oasis Haven, has a Master’s degree in social work and grew up with foster siblings in her family. She adds, “If a foster parent is not equipped with the necessary skills, they will be unable to meet the needs of the child.”
Together, Oketch and Beukes have written a guide called Strengthening Families in a South African Context, sponsored by Ambassadors for Good, which provides an overview of foster care, adoption and family preservation, as well as guidance for statutory and adoption social workers on supporting families.
In the guide, they outline where foster parents can access support and why this is so important for successful foster placements.
The guide outlines several important aspects of foster care, including:
What is foster care?
Foster care is a recognised legal form of alternative care that a child is placed in through a court order after investigations and formal court proceedings have been conducted. Children are placed in foster care for various reasons, including, but not limited to: abuse, neglect, abandonment, death of the child’s legal guardian, or exploitation.
Foster care is a holistic approach that includes the development of the child’s education and connection to their community and culture, as well as incorporating the child’s rights. It is the provision of a stable family unit while still preparing the child for the return to their biological family if possible.
Who can foster?
Someone interested in becoming a foster parent needs to be 18 years or older, in good health, willing to care for the child, and able to provide an environment that will encourage the child’s growth and development.
A foster parent has to be able to journey with a child and give them all sorts of support in addition to taking care of their physical needs. A child who has been received into foster care will need the stability, support and resources to help them grow and heal from any past trauma or neglect. A foster parent needs to find ways to provide emotional, psychological, physical and mental health support and they are also responsible for ensuring that a child in their care attends school.
Support for foster parents
Caring for a vulnerable child can be an intensive responsibility and it’s important that foster parents have the right support to carry out their role.
Effective preparation for foster parents should also include social work or peer groups where parents can test their training, reflect on the impact and adjust their behaviour and approaches as necessary to help the child or children in their care.
“The rights of foster parents need to be addressed along with the support and training needs of foster parents, in order to fulfil their tasks successfully,” says Beukes.
Oasis Haven will be offering a course in Johannesburg on strengthening families at the beginning of June, which will cover families at risk, fostering and adoption, among other things. It runs for four sessions of four hours each over the course of June, and costs R600 per person or R1 000 per couple, including catering and course materials.
The course is relevant for anyone interested in the subject of strengthening families, from individuals to those working with vulnerable children. People who are interested can get in touch with Oasis Haven by contacting Yvonne on firstname.lastname@example.org or 011 678 8057.
For more information, visit www.oasishaven.org.