Grandparents and their adolescent foster children : experiences of living together.
Nationally there has been an increase in the number of children requiring care and protection who have been placed in foster care in South Africa. This increase has also been evident at the Child and Family Welfare Society of Pietermaritzburg. Many of the children needing care and protection are placed in foster care with their grandparents. The aim of this study was therefore to explore the experiences and support networks of grandparents and their adolescent foster grandchildren. The study was guided by the ecological framework. This was a qualitative study with the purpose being descriptive. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 adolescent foster children and one focus group discussion was conducted with 8 grandmothers. Although the plan was to include both grandparents in the study, it became evident at the sampling stage that many of the children were placed with their grandmothers, even if the grandfather was present. A significant finding of the study was that it was mainly grandmothers, rather than both grandparents, who had the responsibility for caring and nurturing the children in their care. Although five of the adolescents lived with both their grandmothers and their grandfathers; grandfathers were not seen as playing a significant role in their lives. Grandmothers were the decision-makers, responsible for discipline and a source of support for the adolescents. Grandmothers experienced financial and housing difficulties. Adolescents expressed feelings of loneliness and loss in relation to their parents. Social workers have focused mainly on assisting grandmothers to access the foster care grant and grandmothers and adolescents have not received grief and bereavement counseling and therapeutic services. Recommendations include the need for social workers to respond to the therapeutic needs of adolescents and the employment of social service professionals. Recommendations at a policy level include the improvement of the partnership between the Department of Social Development and NGOs.