Day 10: HOW TO: apply for a foster child grant

How can you practically empower yourself, or the women and children you know, during this year’s 16 days of Activism? The Mail & Guardian‘s “HOW TO” guide will tackle a different area each day, including suing for maintenance, applying for a social grant and getting an interdict against an abusive partner.

What is a foster child grant
A foster child is a child who is removed from their parents and legally placed in the care of foster parents, in terms of the Child Care Act. If you have been appointed a foster parent by a court, you can get a monthly payment from the government for your foster child.

Who qualifies for a foster child grant?

You (the foster parent) and the child must both be resident in South Africa at the time of making the application. However, you do not have to be South African citizens. South African citizen, permanent resident and refugees qualify. If you have a court order indicating foster care status, and the child remains in your care, you qualify.

However foster parents can only get the grant for poor children whose financial situation is below a certain level. The test to decide is called a means test. The means test depends on the income of the foster child, not on the income of the parents. The income of the foster parents is not counted.

The means test for the foster child grant says that if the income in a year of the foster child is less than twice the annual amount of the foster child grant, then you can get the grant. In 2009 the foster child grant is R680 a month, which means that you can get a foster child grant for foster children who have an income of less than R16 320 a year. Remember, the income of the foster parents is not taken into account.

How long does it last?
Usually the grant is for two years, as courts usually appoint foster parents for a two-year period only. After two years, children are usually adopted, returned to their parents or placed with other foster parents. However, a social worker can extend the grant depending on the circumstances.

Foster grants are usually paid out until the child turns 18. It stops when the child leaves school or is earning an income above the stipulated means test. If it happens that the child who is turning 18 is still in secondary/high school (but not a tertiary facility), the grant can be paid out until the end of the year in which the child turns 21.

Remember, if the child is disabled, you can get a care-dependency grant as well as a foster child grant, if you qualify.

How much?
The amount of the grant changes every year. In 2009 the grant amount is R680 per month.

How to apply for the grant
You can apply for the foster child grant by filling in an application form at your nearest District Welfare office or counter service point of a District Office. You do not need to pay anything to make the application.

Your application form will be completed in the presence of an officer from Sassa (South African Social Security Agency). When your application is completed you will be given a receipt. The receipt must be kept as proof of your application. You will also need to show certain documents and provide some information, including:

  • Your bar-coded identity document.
  • The child’s birth certificate, which if South African, must have a bar-coded identity number.
  • The court order which placed the child in your foster care.
  • Any documents, such as a maintenance payment order, which shows the child’s income.
  • If the child is at school, the child’s school certificate.

It will take about thirty working days for your application to be processed and checked and either approved or refused. You will get a letter saying whether your application has been successful.

Payment of a child support grant
When you make the application, you should say how you would like the money to be paid. The money can be paid out in cash on specific days at a Pay Point, or you can get the money paid electronically into your bank account. Remember that normal bank charges apply to any money going in and out of your bank account. You can decide to change the payment method at any time by filling in a form at a Welfare office, but the change will only happen a month later.

If it is approved, you will start getting payments within three months. The payments will be backdated to the day you applied for the grant. You can find out what has happened to your application and when you can expect payment by telephoning the South African Social Security Agency’s (Sassa) toll-free helpline on 0800 601 011.

Payments will stop if both foster parents die, if the child dies, if the child is no longer in your custody as a foster parent, when the child turns 18, or leaves school, or when the child starts earning an income above the qualifying amount. Your grant will be reviewed from time to time to check this. You must inform the Department of any changes in your or your child’s circumstances..

Helpful contacts:
South African Social Security Agency (Sassa)
Call their toll-free help line: 0800 601 011 for all your queries on social grants.
Arise: a Cape Town based organisation that coaches couples through fostering a child.
Cotlands: a national organisation.

Remember: you can also apply for a grant for caring for a healthy child and caring for a disabled child. Look at our list of “HOW TO” guides for more informationhere.
The above information is courtesy of Cape Gateway.

View more on our special report on 16 days of activism here.

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