South African Government

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Apply for foster care

What you should do
How long does it take
How much does it cost
Forms to complete
Who to contact



About applying for foster care

If you want to look after a child who is in need of care and protection, apply to the Department of Social Development or an accredited child protection organisation for permission to foster the child.

Foster care is the temporary placement of a child who is in need of care and protection. The child is placed in the care of a suitable person who is not the parent or guardian of the child.

Who qualifies to be a foster child?

The child must be under 18 years of age and/or:

  • have been abandoned or orphaned and be without any visible means of support
  • display behaviour which cannot be controlled by the parent or care-giver
  • be living on the streets or begging for a living
  • be addicted to a dependence-producing substance and without any support to obtain treatment for such dependency
  • have been exploited or exposed to exploitation
  • be at risk if returned to the custody of the parent, guardian or care-giver
  • be in a state of physical or mental neglect, maltreated, abused or degraded by a parent, a care-giver, a person who has parental responsibilities and rights or a family member or by a person under whose control the child is.

Who qualifies to be a foster parent?

To qualify as a foster parent, you must be:

  • 18 years or older
  • fit and proper
  • willing and able to look after the child
  • able to provide a favourable environment for the child's growth and development.

You can only foster a child for the period indicated in the court order. Once the indicated period of the court order has lapsed, the presiding officer may, after reviewing the recommendation from the social worker, extend the period of the court order.

What you should do

  1. Apply to your nearest Department of Social Development office or an accredited child protection organisation to foster a child.
  2. You will be referred to a social worker who will conduct an investigation.
  3. The social worker will assess you and the child.
  4. Submit the following:
    • an affidavit stating that the child is abandoned (if applicable)
    • death certificates of the parents (if applicable)
    • birth certificate of the child. If the child does not have a birth certificate, the social worker will assist you in obtaining the birth certificate
    • your identity document.
  5. The biological parents must be involved in the process.
  6. If you do not know where the biological parents are, the social worker will assist you in placing an advertisement in newspapers for one month, calling on them to come forward.
  7. If the biological parents do not come forward, the process will proceed.
  8. The child must be involved in the entire process.
  9. The social worker will compile a report and present it to the Children’s Court with recommendations.
  10. Based on the social worker’s report, the presiding officer at the court may find the child to be in need of care and protection.
  11. The presiding officer will issue a court order approving the placement of the child with the foster parent. The court order will show the names of the foster parent, the foster child and the duration of the foster placement.

Note: Once the court order has been issued, you can apply for a foster child grant at your nearest South African Security Agency office. The child may also be exempted from paying fees at a public school and public healthcare institutions. For the child to be exempted from paying school fees, you have to fill in the exemption form which is available from the school, and submit a letter of recommendation from the social worker to the school.

How long does it take

It varies from case to case.

How much does it cost

The service is free.

Forms to complete

All forms are available at your nearest Department of Social Development office.

Department of Social Development provincial offices contact list