Social work and informal alternative care : an exploratory study
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In South Africa, informal alternative care is not regulated by the Department of Social Development. The amended Children’s Act (38 of 2005) serves as the ideal legislative guidance tool for social workers in South Africa with the aim of protecting children. Alternative care is covered in the Children’s Act (38 of 2005), but “informal alternative care” is not mentioned − even though this type of placement of children is happening on a continual basis. It is evident from the research done that this kind of placement is happening with and without the involvement of social workers. Literature on informal alternative care in South Africa is limited and may leave a gap with regard to the protection of children. This literature gap in informal alternative care can lead to a gap in legislative and practice guidelines as well as informal alternative care is not being given the necessary attention. The study, therefore, sought to develop insight into what constitutes informal alternative care; to explore the views of social workers concerning the elements, strategies and actions associated with interventions that best support informal alternative care; and to improve informal alternative care by making recommendations for possible practice guidelines regarding informal alternative care. A qualitative research methodology was utilised by the researcher to explore informal alternative care. Data were collected through the use of two focus groups. The sample consisted of social workers with a working experience of at least three years in informal and formal alternative care and was identified through the use of purposive sampling. The researcher used an interview schedule with pre-selected questions to explore the views of the participants with regard to interventions on informal alternative care. The researcher manually analysed the transcribed data from the focus groups and made use of Tesch’s eight steps in the coding process. The findings revealed five themes, which involved the concepts of informal alternative care, risk factors in informal alternative care, positive aspects of informal alternative care, challenges in informal alternative care; and regulations and legislative support in informal alternative care. This study, therefore, makes a contribution towards the knowledge and understanding of informal alternative care. Section A (Part 1) of the dissertation focuses on the orientation of the research, which encompasses the aim of the research, the problem statement, the research methodology and ethical implications. Section A (Part 2) contains the literature review of the study, which focuses on informal alternative care in South Africa, but informal alternative care in other countries also receives attention. This section also focuses on the amended Children’s Act (38 of 2005) and other legislative protection for children in South Africa. Focus was also given to formal foster care in order to draw a comparison between informal alternative care and formal foster care. Section B is presented in the form of an article. This section is the crux of the study as the findings of the study are discussed. Section C focuses on the critical evaluation of the study, limitations, recommendations and the conclusion. The results of the study suggest that social workers and families dealing with informal alternative care arrangements need support and guidance. Social workers are in need of practice guidelines in order to assist families and children in the best possible way. Possible practice guidelines are, therefore, proposed in order to assist social workers, children and families.
- Humanities