Foster care call

The Child Care Board (CCB) is encouraging Barbadians to consider becoming foster parents to scores of children living in Government’s children’s homes.

The board’s senior child care officer for adoption and foster care, Roxanne Sanderson, said there were more than 100 children in institutionalised care, with “approximately 78” of this number in residential care.

Sanderson revealed that 44 of those 78 children, who are between ages four to 17, were eligible for foster care. She said the Child Care Board would like to have people come forward and take on a fostering responsibility.

She pointed out that foster care differed from adoption, allowing foster parents to take children from Government institutions to live in their home for specified periods, while still being under the care and protection of the Government institution.

“Basically, it is a form of alternative residential care, with children living with families instead of in institutional care. It is a partnership between the board and families,” Sanderson said.

 She said the CCB offered three types of foster parenting.

“You can have persons who want to do short term foster placement which does not exceed six months; there is kinship parenting which allows a relative of the institutionalised child to take that child into their home, whether it be a grandmother, a cousin or other relative; then there is the emergency foster parent who we will need at short notice to hold a child because that child has come in for emergency reasons.”

Sanderson said the board also offered long-term foster parenting which could go up to 18 months.

Foster care basically is a form of alternative residential care, with children living with families instead of in institutional care, as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child suggest. It is a partnership between the CCB and families, Sanderson explained.

However, she stressed the fostering process was stringent, filled with checks and balances, thorough investigation and scrutiny of people applying to be foster parents, hence the reluctance of many people to complete the application process.

“One of the challenges is that people don’t necessarily understand foster care,” Sanderson said. “Also, we find that persons want perfect children, but there is no perfect child in the system. We bring in children from various broken homes and various situations, because there are three ways a child can come into care – if  a child was abused; as a place of safety; or the court may deem that they need to be in care.

“I find that people will more quickly support a child, but to take a child into their home environment, sometimes people find this challenging because that child may exhibit behavioural challenges and as soon as the child begins to exhibit that behaviour, the foster parent then wants to bring back the child because they cannot manage it.”

Sanderson suggested the reluctance to foster might also be attributed to the stringent processes, “because we must monitor the child and the placement. Every month we have to report to a committee on the child’s progress while in foster care, because the child belongs to the board and we have to give an account on the progress of this child.

“I don’t know if people sometimes find that too rigorous or they don’t want the invasion, but we cannot just put a child with you and just leave it like that. It may be also the stipend that we give. It is not a big set of money but Government is hoping to improve on that.”

Foster parents receive a stipend every month, while the CCB provides for the child’s complete maintenance including educational and medical needs.

Sanderson indicated the board was concerned about the paucity in fostering applications received, revealing that “in any given month, you may get four or five applications, if so much”.

“The applicant must do medicals, have background checks, police checks. You must have personal references and all of that. We find that somewhere along the line, persons don’t continue the process so we can have a complete application to go before the Adoption and Foster Care Committee for approval”.

Sanderson said there were currently only about 11 foster parents, collectively fostering 17 children and another two emergency foster placements.

She expressed the hope that there would be more respondents to the current appeal.

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