The challenges confronting social workers in meeting the objectives of permanency planning at children's homes in the magisterial district of Durban.
The main aim of this study was to understand the challenges of social workers in meeting the obligations of permanency planning when rendering services at Children's Homes in the Magisterial District of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Permanency planning is guided by policy and prescribed in practice but the challenges have not been studied. The descriptive study was qualitative (focus groups) with elements of a quantitative nature (checklist) that targeted the population. Respondents included participants from 15 children's homes, 5 Child and Family Welfare Societies and 2 State District Offices. The checklist of 25 items was completed by 12 principals of children's homes. Results confirmed that permanency planning was not practiced according to policy even though social workers had a good understanding of what was required of them. Children's homes, although recognized as temporary accommodation for children, were sometimes used as an option for permanency planning. Creative efforts towards permanency planning, despite their challenges of limited resources and institutional barriers were evident. However, programmes and activities towards promoting permanency planning needed in-depth evaluation. If used inappropriately, for example leave of absence and the host programme could increase insecurity, instability and unpredictability rather than promoting permanency planning. Recommendations were for social workers to make a significant difference by addressing their negative perceptions, values, attitudes and .beliefs towards parents, to apply solutions found in this study and to play an advocacy role especially with regard to policy and resources. It became apparent that unless the challenges of the social workers were addressed, they would not be able to meet the objectives of permanency planning, even though it is a statutory requirement. Although social workers hold the primary responsibility and accountability for permanency planning, in practice its implementation and effectiveness depended on the interconnection and co-operation of various systemic influences.