State to Start Foster Care Project
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05 May 2010
By Swati Sengupta
It is adoption, but with a difference. The state government is about to launch a “Foster Care”project in Bengal–a family–based child protection programme that intends to offer emotional support and a temporary home for children whose parents are unable to take care of them.
The reasons may be anything from illness, death, poverty, desertion of one parent or an emotional crisis. It is different from adoption in the sense that the child does not sever all ties with the family in which s/he was born, but goes into another family on a temporary basis to feel relaxed and well taken care of.
However, in Bengal, where horror stories are heard every now and then from the 20 government–run children’s homes housing over 3,000 kids, there are questions on how well this project may be implemented.
Nilanjana Gupta, chairperson of Atmaja, an association of parents who have adopted children, said the international conventions for child rights make it clear that the child should not be separated from the biological family even if there is a major crisis.
“Attempts should be made to give support to the family in case it faces a crisis, instead of taking the child out,”she said. In case this does not work out, the child may be given foster care and putting a child in an orphanage may be the absolutely last option. Also, after a certain age, the child’s opinion must also be taken, she said.
The state government plans to implement the project through NGOs and the district administration. But it has to look sensitively at how the selection process is done. According to an officer, the idea is that the foster family is as close as possible to the original family in terms of socio–cultural background and may even be the child’s relatives. Also, awareness programmes will be taken up so that such families come forward. The child’s parents may even visit her/him, so that after the temporary care is given, s/he may get back to the original family.
According to an officer, Maharashtra and Karnataka have run this programme, and a team of officers from West Bengal will visit Mumbai and Bangalore next week to see it for themselves. The target groups of children are from lower socio–economic background, those with single parents, orphaned, abandoned, destitutes or at other risks, who cannot be given up for adoption for various reasons. It may also be suitable for unwed mothers who do not want to give up the child, but may not be able to support the child for the time being.
The programme ultimately aims at reuniting the child with the original family when the crisis is over, or finding a suitable rehabilitation in case the child is orphaned. The Centre and state will together allot Rs 50 lakh for each district. Another area of concern is to see that families are not coming forward simply attracted by the allowances. “Our officers will especially see how this aspect has been dealt with in Karnataka and Maharastra,”said Rinchen Tempo, secretary, women and child development department.