Answer to a question from a reader

How can we apply for an ID for our foster child that has a mental disability? Home Affairs and Social Services refuse to help.

The short answer

You may need legal intervention to compel Social Services to issue the required documentation for Home Affairs.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

My partner fosters a mentally disabled child. Even though the child will turn 20 soon, we are still struggling to apply for an ID for her. Once a foster child turns 18, Social Services does not issue more documentation indicating who is responsible for the child because they class them as adults. This is a problem when the child has a mental disability and cannot function independently, as is the case in our situation. Home Affairs refuses her ID application because her foster parents do not have documents from Social Services indicating that she is still in foster care. Her biological parents also refuse to help and do not show up at Home Affairs when we try to apply for her ID. 

Without an ID, she cannot apply to go to a special needs care home. This discrimination is stopping her from contributing to society in a healthy way. She is stuck at home, which is not good for her health and social wellbeing. What can we do? 

The long answer

The complete lack of cooperation between two government departments like Home Affairs and Social Services concerning a vulnerable person like a mentally incapacitated child, is quite staggering. Clearly it is also very difficult to compel the biological parents to do their duty by their child and accompany her to Home Affairs. As you say, all this discriminates against the child.

I think you may need legal intervention to compel Social Services to issue the required documentation for Home Affairs.

Perhaps you could consult the following organisations for assistance:

  • Childline South Africa, which is an organisation that assists children and also networks and coordinates with other organisations and individuals to work together to help children. Their toll-free helpline is 08000 55 555.

  • Lawyers for Human Rights, which is an organisation that has had a lot of experience dealing with government departments like Home Affairs.  Their email address is

  • Scalabrini Centre (Cape Town). Their email address is You can also phone them on 021 465 6433.

Wishing you the best,

Answered on April 29, 2021, 11:40 a.m.

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