Court sets two-year deadline for government to fix foster care in SA

The court ruling will prevent thousands of foster care orders from lapsing.
The court ruling will prevent thousands of foster care orders from lapsing.
Image: 123RF/Aleksandr Davydov

Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu has been given two years by the high court in Pretoria to come up with a comprehensive legal solution to the crisis in the country's foster care system.

The court granted an order on Tuesday, at the request of the minister, to prevent thousands of foster care orders from lapsing and in turn preventing thousands of children from losing their foster child grants.

The Centre for Child Law said in a statement that the ruling placed “stringent reporting requirements on the minister — who needs to report to the court and the centre on progress made in implementing the court order every three months”.

The ruling was handed down nearly a decade after a 2011 high court order was granted to “keep children from falling off the foster care system”, said the centre.

“The minister has still not finalised and implemented a comprehensive legal solution to deal with the crisis in the foster care system. Currently, approximately 30,000 foster care orders were at risk of lapsing on November 28 2019 and a further 105,000 in 2020.”

The high court granted a third order in 2017, the first two were obtained in 2011 and extended, preventing foster care orders from lapsing. The deadline of the third order was Friday.

“The litigation started in 2011, when the centre approached the high court asking it to intervene after the foster care system collapsed, resulting in more than 120,000 children losing their grants,” said the statement. “Backlogs as a result of failures to extend foster care orders in time had caused the foster care system to grind to a halt.”

The centre said the department had admitted to the parliamentary portfolio committee on social development, at a briefing session in October, that it was not able to meet the Friday deadline and would have to approach the high court.

“The centre disagrees with the department’s view that the Children’s Amendment Bill 2019 - now waiting to be introduced to parliament - contains a comprehensive legal solution,” it said.

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