An investigation of the knowledge and attitudes of kinship care amongst social workers employed by the Department of Social Development in KwaZulu-Natal: implications for child protection policy and practice.
Mkhize, Mirriam Sinethemba.
MetadataShow full item record
Although kinship care is historically a valuable source of care and support within the social structure of families in Africa, however it is not a legally recognised form of alternative care option in South Africa. The foster care system is experiencing a backlog; as a result, children are exposed to unstable care. The reserve in the foster care system is as a consequence of increasing kinship caregivers attempting to bring in additional financial backing through the foster care grant. The legal recognition of kinship care has the potential to address this backlog and has positive implications for child protection policy and practice frameworks in South Africa. This study aimed to examine the knowledge, attitude, and practice of social workers towards kinship care in South Africa and its policy and practice implication on child protection. Grounded on the Theory of Planned Behaviour, this study employed a quantitative research design to examine knowledge, attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioural control of public sector social workers towards kinship care. Additionally, the Ecological Systems theory was utilised to explore the implications of kinship care on child protection policy and practice. A convenient sample of social workers (n=100) in the public sector in the uMgungundlovu district of KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa participated in the study. Participants from five regional offices in uMgungundlovu district a self-administered questionnaires consisting of five measures that assessed knowledge, attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioural control towards kinship care as an alternative child protection intervention. Descriptive findings indicate that over two-thirds (77%; n=77) of the participants had previous kinship care experience, whereas only above a quarter (n=23; 23%) had no prior experience in kinship care practise. More than half (60%; n= 60) of the social workers had high knowledge of kinship care which reflects the central principle of family reunification in social work practice. Over half (52%; n=52) of the participants reported a positive attitude towards kinship care. Subjective norms were a high predictor of behaviour in this study as approximately (61%; n=61) of the participants agreed that “they feel under social pressure to explore kinship care when a child comes into care”. In contrast, perceived behavioural control was reported to low predictor of behaviour, (46%; n=46) of the participants disagreed that “it would be easy to place a child in foster care, without contacting their kin first.” This indicates a low control over the social worker’s choices towards this practice. Finally, the literature reviewed strongly supported that kinship care has positive implications for policy and child protection practice. The implications of kinship care for child protection policy and practice are in the best interest of children in kinship placements. Concurrently, improving the practice of social workers and other child protection professionals in providing a mandated and guided practice in child placement. The pertinent policy recommendations of this study are under the Draft Children’s Amendment Bill-2018 and Social Assistance Bill-2018 towards the legal recognition of Kinship care in child welfare policy and affording kinship caregivers additional financial support through the Child Support Grant (CSG Top-up grant). Overall, the policy, practice, and research recommendations are directed at informing practice interventions for professionals and policy towards legal recognition of kinship care for the best interest of vulnerable children in South Africa.