Hazel Gigaba has worked at Give a Child a Family (GCF) for almost five years. She is a social worker and has many years of experience in the profession. Currently, she is the manager of the organisation’s Family Services Department, which core function is the Foster Care Programme.
GCF promotes that all children should grow up in a stable and loving family environment instead of experiencing their childhood in a Child and Youth Care Centre (CYCC) if being removed from their biological families. Hazel explains that foster care is the best option when children cannot yet be reunified with their biological families or relatives.
“I believe in foster care because it’s where children experience the love that every child deserves, it’s where they can grow up and become independent. They have someone that guides them within a normal family setting.”
So, exactly what is foster care? Hazel explains that it is a system where children (age 0–18 years), who cannot remain at home for various reasons, are placed with foster families which are approved by the court. The placement of the child with the foster family is arranged by the child’s case manager/social worker employed by the government or a social service agency. The same social worker supervises the placement in the foster family to make sure that the child gets the daily care and protection he or she needs. Foster care is temporary but can be extended every two years in placement if the circumstances in the biological family have not improved.
Hazel continues to talk about how care in a CYCC can never replace a family. Children growing up in CYCCs quickly become institutionalised due to the environment they live in. Systems are in place and controlled in detail. They have child care workers taking care of them 24 hours a day, stay with other children according to age group and there are specific times to engage in different activities, such as playing, eating and doing homework. There is little time for improvisation and creativeness. Children in a CYCC are not exposed to how it is to live in a larger community, in some cases, only schooling in a community school may be the time they spend outside the centre. When it is time to leave the CYCC, they are not prepared for a life of independence.
Children who become a part of well-screened and trained foster families, on the other hand, will experience family life, family values and will have more freedom to enjoy their childhood.
“Recently three siblings were placed with a woman on our database of approved foster parents. She already has one foster child but was more than willing to receive more children. She is so dedicated to the foster care programme. During the introduction period at the centre, she used to visit the children and immediately started to equally bond with all three of them. Not long ago we visited them and all of them were visibly happy. I applaud this foster mother.”
Many children in South Africa are placed in foster care with relatives. GCF’s Foster Care Database entails unrelated foster families, who welcome children without anyone suitable or willing to care for them in their biological homes.
Hazel informs that anybody fit to provide desired care and a stable home environment to a child can apply to become a foster parent. All applicants undergo a screening process, where many things are considered, e.g. age, living circumstances, family background, physical and psychological factors, experiences of children and much more. An applicant can be single or married, living rural or urban. To be approved as a potential foster parent through GCF, a five-day-long Foster Care Training is also compulsory.
Would you consider becoming a foster family? Contact your local child welfare organisation or the Department of Social Development for more information. If you live in the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality, Hazel Gigaba can also be contacted. Email her on: email@example.com or phone 039 317 2761.
Written by Anna-Karin Öhrnstedt