Perceptions, experiences and challenges of parents whose children are removed through a statutory process
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The 2009 Save the Children, United Kingdom report indicated that eight million children worldwide find themselves in alternative placement. In terms of the statutory process, alternative placement of a child is when a child is placed in foster care or in a child and youth care center. The removal of children from the care of their parents is a statutory process that is driven by issues that put the child’s safety and development at risk. Although children are removed due to a risk factor, Chapter 2 section 28 (1)(b) of the South African Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, states that children have the right to family or parental care, or appropriate alternative care when removed from the family environment. The risks that children are exposed to often take place in the family context. This creates enormous conflict for the social workers that are responsible for their removal. Due to this conflict, parents become less involved in the process and mistrust develops on the side of the parents as well as social workers. Research indicates that the removal process is an adversarial process, which is linked to the fact that the social workers’ concern is for the safety of the child. This often leads to mistrust. This mistrust, in turn, affects the manner in which the social workers interact with the parents through the removal process of their children. This study focused on the perceptions, challenges and experiences of twelve parents residing in the Delft and Goodwood area whose children were removed from their care through a statutory process. The study found that in addition to encountering a number of challenges, the parents experienced the removal process negatively, they did not fully participate in the removal process, and the removal process did not fully meet their expectations. Based on the research findings, a number of recommendations were made to professionals in the field to improve the overall removal process and thereby address the parents’ experiences, expectations and challenges.