Psycho-social experiences of aged foster parents residing in the Mbizana Local Municipality, Eastern Cape, South Africa.
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The practice of extended family members raising children deprived of parental care is a long-standing custom in various parts of the world. Parents die, leaving behind orphaned children in the care of family members and the responsibility of caring for these orphans often resides with grandparents. The motivation to conduct this study arose from the researcher’s experiences in working with aged foster parents and witnessing how they often struggled in their effort to provide care to their foster children. Therefore, it was crucial to comprehend the challenges and needs of this particular group of foster parents. Using the general systems theory, this qualitative research study explored the psycho-social experiences of aged foster parents residing in the Mbizana Local Municipality, Eastern Cape, South Africa. An exploratory descriptive research design was employed. The sample was selected using a non-probability, criterion-sampling method from the case files of the Department of Social Development, Bizana service office. Semi-structured interviews were used to collect data from 12 research participants. Thereafter, one focus group discussion was conducted with six of these research participants. Thematic analysis was utilised to analyse the data. Findings/ themes: Four main themes emerged from the study, namely the reasons for foster care placement, roles and functions of caregivers, challenges facing caregivers and access of caregivers to support systems. These findings reveal that aged foster parents in rural areas are confronted with a myriad of challenges that impact on their health and psycho-emotional well-being. They feel overwhelmed by their caregiving responsibilities due to stress over their inability to manage their foster children’s behaviour, constraining financial circumstances and the difficulty of accessing health and social services. These findings also reveal that aged foster parents are not adequately supported in their caregiving role. Recommendations include the need for an interdepartmental approach and intervention programmes at different levels in order to improve access to health and social services by aged foster parents and to alleviate the numerous challenges that they face. Social work practitioners need to develop an understanding of the psycho-social, emotional and material support that is essential in sustaining this special group of foster parents.