- Responsibility falls on the South Africa Government to give social assistance to children without parents or whose caregivers are unable to provide for them
- The grant amount is R800 per month from April 2013 and goes to adults actively fostering at least one child
- There is no means test for the Foster Child Grant
- The Grant will cease once a foster child turns 18 unless he or she is still completing formal or vocational schooling and needs further support
- Adults not legally appointed foster parents may not receive the grant
The South African constitution gives children special protection. It puts the responsibility on the government to provide social assistance to children whose parents or primary caregivers are unable to support them. One of the ways they do this is through the provision of the Foster Child Grant.
What is a Foster Child Grant – and who is it meant to support?
The Foster Child Grant is monthly income support to adults who have fostered children (under the age of 18).
How much is the Foster Child Grant?
The amount changes every year. From 1 April 2013 the Foster Child Grant is R800 per month.
Who can apply for the Foster Child Grant?
Foster parents can apply for this monthly payment on behalf of the children in their care.
Who is eligible to foster a child – and get the grant?
There is no means test for the Foster Child Grant, so being eligible for the grant does not depend on a foster parent’s income. Eligibility only depends on the national status of the adults who want to foster them.
Adults over 18 who are South African citizens, permanent residents or refugees may legally foster a child. They and the child must be living in South Africa. To become a foster parent, they should contact their local Department of Social Development or organisations such as Child Welfare.
Adults who are not legally appointed as foster parents cannot access the Foster Child Grant. Adults who are a child’s legal guardian or biological parents may not foster that child. Foreigners with visas, asylum seekers and undocumented foreigners may not foster children.
While family members are eligible to foster children, children between 16 and 18 years old who are heading households (as recognised by the provincial head of the Department of Social Development) are not eligible to foster anyone, including their dependent younger siblings. They can receive the Foster Child Grant through the adult person designated by the Children’s Court to supervise them, however.
How do they apply for a Foster Child Grant?
Foster parents can apply for a grant at their nearest SASSA (South African Social Security Agency) office. They do not pay anything to apply.
They must take a range of documents with them as applications will not be processed without these. They will need identity documents for themselves and the child, proof of their marital status, a court order as proof of fostering the child. (A full list of the documents is available on page 71 of the Black Sash’s Social Assistance: A reference guide for paralegals.) At the SASSA office they will be assisted to complete the forms, will be interviewed and will have their fingerprints taken.
If they cannot go to the offices themselves, a friend or family member can take letters from them (and their doctor) saying why they cannot do so. A SASSA official will then arrange to visit them at home.
Can they apply for a grant without an ID book or birth certificate?
If the applicant does not have identity documentation – or is missing some of the other necessary documents - they may still apply.
At the SASSA office they will be asked to complete and sign a form (a ‘sworn affidavit’) confirming who they, or the children, are. They will also be asked to bring an affidavit from a reputable person (like a councillor, traditional leader, social worker, priest or school principal) who can verify that they know the applicant. SASSA may also ask for other documents, like a clinic card or a school report etc.
How is the Foster Child Grant paid to them?
When they make the application, they must say how they would like the money to be paid. They can either collect it on a specific day each month, or have it paid into a bank account. (This can be changed at any time by filling in a form at the SASSA office.)
How long does it take to start getting the Foster Child Grant?
In some SASSA offices, applicants are told immediately whether or not they qualify for a grant. Legally SASSA has three months from the date of application to start paying a grant once it has been approved. The payments should be backdated to the date the child was placed in foster care by the court, even if the grant was not applied for immediately.
If they are worried, an applicant can phone the free SASSA helpline: 0800 601 011 tofind out what has happened to their application and when they can expect payment. This is also the number to call if you want to report social grant fraud.
Once a grant has been approved, people who have not yet received any money but are in desperate need of support can apply for temporary assistance in the form of Social Relief of Distress (SRD). SRD is normally issued as a food parcel but can also be a voucher or cash payment.
(Where money has been paid, this will be deducted from the grant money they eventually receive.)
Do they need to renew the Foster Child Grant?
No. However, they do need to renew the court order that made them foster parents as this expires after a given period (often two years). The grant will expire too when they are no longer legally appointed as foster parents. It is important that foster parents ensure that a social worker renews the court order in time if they want to continue fostering the child and receiving the grant.
To check if the foster parent is still eligible for the grant, SASSA sends beneficiaries an annual registered letter asking them to provide up-to-date information about their current circumstances. However, if a foster parent’s or the child’s circumstances change before SASSA sends them this letter, they must let SASSA know. Receiving a grant when a person is not eligible for one is fraud.
When do the Foster Child Grant payments stop?
Even if an adult is still fostering a child, payments will stop when the foster child turns 18 – unless the child is still in formal schooling or vocational education, in which case the grant can be continued to enable the child to complete this.
The Foster Child Grant will lapse if the child is no longer in the custody of the foster parent – or when foster child or both foster parents die.