A public hearing on the bill took place with representatives from the Social Development Department, childcare and welfare sectors, as well as a few children, on Monday.
NGO, Molo Songololo director Patric Solomons said the notice period for public participation had been too short.
“We received the notice on October 3 and a week later this first hearing started. Many organisations expressed, and we ourselves have found it difficult to consult with our members, the young people about the bill and to make sure they understand it so that they can make informed decisions,” Solomons said.
The Department of Social Development’s acting chief director of child protection, Neliswa Cekiso, said the bill was considered a short one that is receiving pressure by the North Gauteng High Court. The bill is in response to the high court order relating to foster care challenges.
“From 2010, we’ve been having challenges with the foster care orders that are lapsing, therefore, the minister was required to develop a comprehensive legal solution to address foster care challenges,” Cekiso said.
The DSD identified 12 clauses, part of the much larger 146-clause bill which is now available for public comment.
Due to the court order, the department had proceeded to deal with just the 12 clauses that will have a direct impact on foster care programmes.
The current high court order expires in November, with the department rushing to finalise the bill by the end of November.
Clause 2 allows individuals to apply for guardianship in the Children’s Court as opposed to the high court. Due to complaints around quality of services, Clause 4 will allow for a Quality Assurance Process for Child Protection Services.
Clause 5 ensures that fully-resourced childcare and protection units are established within provinces.
Chairperson of the social development standing committee Dan Plato said the cut-off date for written comments on the bill is October 21.