In South Africa, foster care placement is the first choice of alternative care for children who are in need of care and protection. The aim of foster care is to protect and nurture foster children by providing a safe, caring and healthy environment with positive support. The foster child grant provides financial support towards this end. However, the majority of foster care parents are unemployed and survive on the little foster child grants that they receive from the state. This poses challenges to social workers to link foster care services with socio-economic development programmes. Therefore, the goal of this study was to explore the challenges of statutory social workers in linking foster care services with socio-economic development programmes to promote sustainable livelihoods.
The research approach for the study was qualitative and the research design was a collective case study. A total of thirty two social workers were purposively selected to participate in the study. The sample included social workers employed by the Gauteng Department of Social Development Tshwane Region in the Mamelodi, Temba/Eersterust and Mabopane/Winterveldt service points. Data was collected by means of focus group discussions.
The findings showed that the foster child grant plays a major role in meeting the basic needs of service users, which include food, health care, income and education. Furthermore, the findings indicated that underpinning challenges in linking the child grant with socio-economic programmes are located in the Children’s Act; the Department of Social Development’s lack of integrating services within and with other relevant departments; limited development centres for service delivery; and a lack of proper supervision of social workers.
The study concluded that linking foster care services with socio-economic development programmes requires deliberate planning and the implementation of intervention strategies for sustainable livelihoods outcomes.
Recommendations include decentralisation sections within the Department of Social Development; developing policy or legislation to ensure the integration of foster care services with socio-economic development; increasing the availability of development centres; holistic service delivery to foster care families; thorough induction of new social workers and proper screening of foster care parents.