Parliament, Friday, 3 December 2021 – The Portfolio Committee on Social Development was informed by the people of Bethlehem that a prolonged adoption process is one of the main causes of child abandonment. It also exposes children to unfavourable environments where they are exposed to exploitation and abuse. They called for an urgent solution to this challenge.

The committee was in Bethlehem yesterday, where it successfully concluded the first leg of the three public hearings on the Children’s Amendment Bill in the Free State province. Participants said that the adoption of children has declined dramatically in the past 10 years as a result of the prolonged process, which can take up to two years. The participants told the committee that the principle of adoption plays an important role in creating a conducive environment for the development of a child.

Similarly, the delay in granting court orders to conclude foster care applications is seen as contributing to backlogs that impact on the ability of the Department of Social Development to place children in safe environments. The unintended consequence of the delays and backlogs is the inability of foster care parents to apply for foster care grants.

The migration of early childhood development centres (ECD) from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Basic Education received mixed views in Bethlehem. Some ECD practitioners called for the migration to be delayed to allow enough time for consultation to understand the process. Some practitioners said the migration could potentially marginalise those without qualifications. The committee welcomed the assurance that the migration will not impact negatively on practitioners already working in the field.

The municipalities were criticised by participants for their lack of support of the ECDs. Many of them said that the ECDs don’t even feature on municipalities’ integrated development plans. The committee called on the newly elected councils to support the ECDs, as they a play a critical role in child development.

Some participants called for social workers within the Department of Social Development to be empowered with improved skills, especially those who deal with children with disabilities.

Others raised a concern about the plight of undocumented foreign children due to the high number of migrants in South Africa. These undocumented children are unable to write their matric examinations, as they are required to have identity documents. A call was made to the government to ensure that these children are documented to enable them to study further.

The committee welcomed the majority support for the Bill and told the residents of Bethlehem that protection of children calls for cooperation of all the people to ensure that the children grow to their full potential.


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