The transition from the previous Child Care Act 74 of 1983 to the new Children’s Act 38 of 2005 has been chaotic. Since the introduction of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005, and its subsequent implementation in April 2012, there has been instability in rendering child protection services. This state of affairs has been caused by some serious loopholes and shortcomings in the new legislation; challenges faced by social workers in adapting to it; lack of capacity of the stakeholders in the child protection field; and the shortage of resources to implement it.
The goal of the study was to explore the challenges faced by social workers working in child protection services in implementing the Children’s Act 38 of 2005. The researcher conducted this study from a qualitative approach. The study was applied and exploratory in nature and utilised a collective case study design. There were 18 social workers in the employ of Johannesburg Child Welfare who participated in the study. They were selected through purposive sampling. Data was collected by means of focus group discussions. The findings show that social workers face institutional and infrastructural barriers in implementing the Children’s Act. Furthermore, social workers face massive human resource challenges in the implementation of the Children’s Act and these stem from the shortage of social workers; inadequate training of social workers and high case loads. Shortcomings that have been realised in the implementation of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005 relate to the transfer of children to alternative placements; different interpretations of different sections of the said Act; the fundamental change to a court based system of renewing the placement of children; contradictions of the Children’s Act with other legal statutes and societal values; and the over reliance of the child protection system on the foster care system to provide income support for children.
The study concluded that the Children’s Act needs to be amended to address its pre-statutory, statutory and post-statutory shortcomings, which create many challenges in its implementation. The study also concluded that the shortage of social workers and/or inadequate training contributes to high case loads, which in turn, influences the effectiveness of child protection services.
Recommendations on addressing the challenges faced by social workers in implementing the Children’s Act include the establishment of a kinship care grant; amending the Children’s Act; organising training for all role players involved in implementing the Children’s Act; and addressing technical issues on the implementation of the Children’s Act.