Estimates suggest that over one third of South Africa s population is under the age of eighteen years. This shows that children constitute a substantial percentage of the country s population. Where developmental issues are concerned, all children are any country s future. This includes children who are living with HIV and need care and protection. Thus, this population group is seen as a time-bomb ready to explode, unless there are ways of enabling them to fulfil their aspirations. The high rate of HIV infection has left many South African children s future in obscurity. It has also exposed these children, particularly those already in need of care and protection, to a number of predicaments, among them failure to secure suitable foster care. Nonetheless, foster care is still the most viable option in South Africa, in the event that natural family care fails.
The goal of this study was to investigate the challenges experienced by social workers in placing children living with HIV in foster care in Johannesburg from an empowerment perspective. The research utilised a qualitative approach through focus group interviews with designated social workers and foster parents. The research participants were selected using purposive sampling. Findings of the study revealed numerous fears and challenges regarding the foster care placement of children living with HIV. These include myths and misconceptions about HIV; fear of losing the child through death; stress; financial concerns; lack of education and information on HIV; stigma and discrimination; lack of support from social workers; fear to disclose a child s HIV status; compliance and adherence to medication; shortage of foster parents and; shortcomings of the Children s Act No. 38 of 2005 (as amended). Further, social workers play a critical role in recruitment and screening of prospective foster parents as well as educating, training and supervising the foster parents of children living with HIV. Finally, empowerment of social workers and foster parents through provision of comprehensive HIV education and training, support groups, incentives, and facilitating collaboration of all role players is fundamental to successful fostering of children living with HIV.
Based on the findings in this study, the researcher concluded that the challenges in placing children living with HIV in foster care are a result of a complex combination of sociological, psycho-social, medical and economic factors. Since these factors are interconnected, they should not be addressed in isolation.
Recommendations from the study include a thorough examination of factors which motivate foster parents to bring children into their care; addressing foster parents fears and challenges concerning fostering HIV positive children; provision of a comprehensive HIV education and training for foster parents and social workers; giving incentives to the foster carers of children living with HIV; formulation and implementation of specific policies regarding the care of children living with HIV who are in need of care and protection, and collaboration and empowerment of all role players.
Mini Dissertation (MSW)--University of Pretoria, 2016.