Monday, June 25, 2007

Foster Care


The changing situation of street children in Pune :

When looking at the rehabilitation of street children, an idea that is being explored is that of foster care for street children. Sathi Raichur an organization in Pune (and a member of Action for the Rights of the Child) is well versed with working with street children since the last 15 years. They work in over 6 states with children on the platform. Through various intervention strategies they try to re-habilitate children into their families and their record of reintegrating children with the family is extremely good and successful.

However as is commonly known, all street children cannot be reintegrated at home and it is to meet the needs of such children- of having a right to family that the option is foster care is being considered. Recently at a meeting with street children in Pune, Sathi recorded that a boy who was around 12 years had run away from home more than 25 times!

Another aspect is that most organisations working with street children are realising that their age is getting less and less. Sometimes in the Sathi shelter in Pune, there are around 7 boys between 5 and 11.

Considering that the child’s right to the family plays a very important role in the over all development of the child, the option of looking at foster care as a means of providing a family environment to the child – even if for a temporary period of time is being looked at. There are a lot of aspects that have to be looked at into it, like the willingness of the child, finding a foster home, permission from the authorities, preparation that goes into it, pro’s and cons and so on. We, as NGOs, also know the down factors, behavioural problems, difficulties in adjusting, education., even language- though most children from the street speak Hindi. The option of launching a foster care programme as opposed to placing children in remand homes is being seriously looked at by Sathi and ARC.

Pune is slowly becoming a large city with a booming IT sector. Many NGOs in Pune get enquiries from call centre and IT staff, willing to volunteer. Many turn out to be sincere and good. This would be another plus factor- when considering people who would volunteer to provide foster homes.

We would like to put forth the ideas and points that have emerged through our discussion amongst ARC members as well as with the CWC and Dept of Women and Child Welfare and throw open the space for more views, suggestions, ideas, criticisms.

Points brought up :
While exploring the idea of foster care with the other ARC members, the following points were brought out: The first thing was to put the whole thing before the Pune CWC which have come out with the following points:
i) Foster care would require preparation of both the child’s mind and the parent’s mind. While in this case we are dealing with street children, the preparation will have to be more specific and intensive
ii) Awareness on this will need to be created through newspaper articles/media
iii.) Concept of group foster care could also need to be explored- To check feasibility
ideally trials have to be done where children (individually or in groups) actually try
staying out with families, so actual problems etc get clearer. Logistic details of what happens when a child runs away from a foster parents house
etc will need to be worked out.
iv) The whole foster care option would need to be built on a strong matching-
mentoring- monitoring process, wherein the child and family would need to be
matched, mentored and prepared to adjust to each other and monitored to
assure that the child is benefiting from staying with the family
v) It was suggested that the child could be placed in a foster care home for a period of 1-3 years and then shifted to a home. The purpose of foster care here would be to enable a child to have participate in a family environment, learn family values and this may lead to the child wanting to go back to his/her own biological family, if he or she has one, or continue to stay with the foster family.
vi) Information was obtained that that foster care for street children would fall under
the CWC and parents who are foster parents can have permission on an annual basis
where they will have to come before the CWC once a year to renew permission

Areas of counseling fears and apprehensions of both fostering parents and children::
· what kind of accountability pattern will be there to ensure that the foster parents do not mistreat the child, how to address addiction habits that a child from the street would have acquired?
· Some street children would tend to use the things of the family in excess, like they may eat a lot or use too much of soap , etc
· -Also the sexual tendencies and experiences of children from the street need to be taken into account when considering foster care.
· Some principles on while fostering experiences have been carried out in other places are:
· fostering families may or may not establish links like an adopting family
· A child to be placed with a foster family is first sent to a foster home and then placed in a family.
· ix) Other criterias that need to be looked are the age group of parents and children, whether children should be given to single parents etc. It was decided that preferably broad criterias should be drawn out and then specific cases need to be looked at within those criterias.

Check list for parents/monitoring and suport:
- Foster care has to be keeping in mind the best interest of the child
- Counseling of both foster parents and children are required
- As of the initial phase, no financial support is to be provided to the family. On the other hand scholarship schemes etc could be suggested looking at supporting the education of the child.
- Accountability of the family on a weekly/ bi weekly/monthly basis is essential
- It would be necessary to look at whether funds would be required to meet the other costs of the child. Areas of concern like will a child be comfortable enough with ARC members to talk about any abuse or misuse should also be considered.
xi) A suggestion was made by was to seek permission from the CWC, talk to some other people outside the social work arena to gain support for the idea and then to hold a press conference for the same and see how many people come forward to volunteer to foster care for children.

Discussion with CWC:
1) Information on procedures for Foster Care available in JJ Act 2000 and Bal Sangopan Yojna.2) Children to be placed in foster home to be first placed either in govt institution or licensed home and then can be put into foster home. The process will need to be overlooked by the CWC as far as permission is concerned. Under the bal sangopan yojna, foster family can get upto Rs 1500/- per month to take care of the child.3) Preferably orphan children to be placed for foster care. If children have parents, consent of parents required.
4) The child and family to be identified and informed to the CWC, then on basis on home study report and after the child is kept within a licensed institution, the procedure for foster care will continue.

The Probabtion officer of the Dept of Women and Child Welfare stated that once
the list of children for foster care and families are identified, he could work with
the CWC on how the children can be placed and what government scheme can be
applicable to the same.

As of now:

1) To create awareness on the idea of foster care it would be necessary to work on press notes and contact social groups- especially in trying to identify potential foster parents
2) Create a list of preparation required when dealing with children and parents
3) Trying to speak to organizations and people who have had experience in foster care and get their inputs


Krupa Mathew Action for the Rights of the child Pune
Mamma Devi Sathi Raichur
Ingrid Mendonca Terre des homes

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