It came as a shock to many Port Alfred residents to hear that the Child Welfare cluster foster home in High Street would close down in December.
TotT first learned of the impending closure two weeks ago when a resident alerted us that the property in High Street was for sale. But TotT’s initial e-mail query to Child Welfare manager and senior social worker Susan Harty went unanswered.
The matter was brought into the public domain by resident Tony King, who posted in TotT’s Facebook group, expressing his dismay that the foster home was going to close.
“I am really distressed to hear the Child Welfare home in Port Alfred is being closed down. Since new management took over there had not been enough money. Strange isn’t it? This lack of care and compassion needs urgent attention.”
His post drew many responses from concerned residents.
“The Nemato Foundation upgraded and furnished that house when I was chairperson of the foundation, I’m so sad to hear that,” Yvonne MacKenzie Botha said.
King called on residents to join together to save the home.
It later emerged that the two foster mothers based at the cluster foster home would now be housing the children at their own homes in Bathurst, where they used to spend the school holidays.
“They will receive the child grants, but as regards transport to school, etc, for the children it’s over to them. So literally they have a huge added burden on their own shoulders now. They are so loving and caring of these kids but they are left carrying the can so to speak,” King said.
Ellen Fober of the Nemato Foundation also commented on the post, assuring residents that the Nemato Foundation would fill in the gap. “Transport to school and all the other things will be arranged by Nemato Foundation. We already made the start,” she said. “I put up a ‘support a child’ project more than a year ago – we support the kids financially and also the foster mothers. And we bought and will buy every necessary equipment for the houses. So, really, the kids and mothers will be fine.”
After noting the comments, the Child Welfare committee released a statement last Tuesday.
“Port Alfred Child Welfare wishes to convey an announcement by the management committee regarding the cluster foster home. As with most NGOs in South Africa, Port Alfred Child Welfare as an organisation is challenged with deteriorating financial support even though every effort has been made to adapt to the inevitable changing economic circumstances,” chairman Arthur Isaacs said.
“It is therefore with regret, but also with a sense of appreciation for all the hard work and achievements, that the management committee announces the closure of the cluster foster home. The children will remain in the care of their foster mothers. As Port Alfred Child Welfare, we will continue to uphold our call to duty to these children and advocate for their rights and protection,” Isaacs said.
“We would like to thank most sincerely all who partnered with us in our journey with the cluster foster home and wish to assure our society that we will remain committed to serve above self.”
Although it was widely believed that the home would close down at the end of November, Isaacs said it would stay open till the end of December, although the children spend part of December with their foster mothers in Bathurst.
The foster home opened in July 2011, and since its inception has provided foster care for 12 children. There are currently 10 children at the home.
Isaacs confirmed that the foster mothers would now receive and administer their foster grants directly.
The Child Welfare committee has not revealed what will become of the foster home property.
Former Child Welfare employee Lizo Mpambani expressed dismay on hearing the news of the foster home closing.
“I was shocked. I felt so bad,” said Mpambani, who worked as a community development worker at Child Welfare from 2011 until July this year.
Mpambani said she worked closely with the foster home. “It was my baby, and I felt it somehow fell apart after I left in July.”
Mpambani said she left after getting another job offer.
“I don’t believe closing the home is a finance reason,” she said. “The kids are each getting a R910 foster care grant. And they get a subsidy from the Department of Social Development. Years back, Social Development was not funding the foster home – now they do.”
Mpambani said the foster home also received significant private financial assistance from the Netherlands-based Nemato Foundation.
“Maybe Child Welfare want to close another part so they can keep the office,” she said. She explained that while she was employed at the office it was constantly raised that funding was a problem and would last another six months.