There are close to 6,000 children in State care, and for many of them, foster care is just the lifeline they need in order to have a better future. In contrast to residential care, in which a child is placed in a government or private children’s home where facilities are communal, fostering allows a child to be placed within a loving family home environment where he or she can get individual attention. There are only about 900 children currently in the foster care system, which is aimed at providing a safe family environment for children aged between zero to 18 years who have become wards of the State as a result of being abused, orphaned, abandoned, neglected, or whose parents, relatives or guardians are unable to care for them.
Foster care, like adoption, is managed by the Child Development Agency. Placing a child with a foster family is a legal process with various protocols to observe. Here are seven things you need to know:
- Adults who want to become foster parents must be in good moral and legal standing. Applications can be made through the Children’s Officer in each parish. The Children’s Officer is usually located in the CDA’s regional offices.
- Prospective foster parents are ideally between the ages of 25 to 65. However, consideration can be given to persons over 65 years, particularly if the individual is a relative of the child and can demonstrate strong family support.
- Prospective foster parents must prove they are gainfully employed or have a steady income in order to provide for the child’s needs: food, clothing, shelter and education.
- The government offers a monthly allowance towards the maintenance of each foster child, as well as fees for clothing, books, school fees and medical bills where necessary.
- Prospective foster parents must be willing to undergo a period of training organised by the Children’s Officer to familiarise themselves with the CDA’s expectations of caring for a child or children.
- Foster parents should expect a CDA social worker to conduct periodic home visits to assess the environment in which the child will be residing. This will include interviews with them and members of their household. After a child is placed in your care, the social worker will continue to make regular visits to the home to determine that the child’s wellbeing is being maintained.
- Fosters parent must be prepared to allow the foster child to maintain contact with his or her biological parents or relatives and allow for the re-integration of the child once a recommendation to that effect has been made by the social worker.
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