JIS News

Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke, has called on churches to encourage their members to become a part of the Foster Care Programme.
“The churches have so much to offer in addition to what they are offering (as) they can encourage their members to foster a child today,” Mrs. Clarke stated at a press briefing held on Thursday (Feb.18) at her office in Kingston.
Lauding foster care as a “viable alternative to institutionalisation” for children in need of care and protection, the Children’s Advocate proposed that the social marketing strategy be boosted to recruit more foster parents.
Foster care is a family-based solution for children in need of care and cannot live with their own parents. It is meant to be a temporary solution until their biological parents are able to take care of them.
The Foster Care Programme in Jamaica is currently administered by the Child Development Agency (CDA) through its regional and parish offices. Foster parents are selected on the basis of their ability and willingness to care for, and to nurture and love the children.
There are about 1,189 children in foster care and Mrs. Clarke said that the programme needs to be expanded in order to get children out of state-run institutions.
A 2009 study commissioned by the OCA to determine the effectiveness of the programme and provide policy direction for its enhancement, found that children enjoyed being in foster care. More than 80 per cent of the 217 foster children polled preferred their foster care homes to their previous homes.
The study revealed that 95.1 per cent of the children would have liked to live permanently with their foster parents and many children found their foster families loving and were satisfied with the treatment they received.
Foster parents also said they enjoyed caring for the children and most were willing to care for their foster children permanently, and provide them with loving homes and families. “No one expressed regret that they had agreed to foster a child. That is so encouraging,” Mrs. Clarke shared. “Many of them (56.6 per cent) said they fostered because of their love for children and that they recognised the need,” she noted.
The study also showed that many of the foster parents (40.8 per cent) had more than one foster child in their home, indicating a willingness to foster multiple children.
The study, which has been tabled in Parliament, also highlighted a number of shortcomings and suggested improvement measures, including mechanisms to properly assess children, who have learning disabilities and behavioural problems; and increasing the $4,000 per child stipend allocated to foster parents each month.
In was also recommended that the national minimum standards for children in foster care should be developed, to further improve the programme. The standards address the criteria for selection of foster parents; the expectations of the CDA and foster parents; protecting children from abuse and neglect; promoting adequate contact, consultation, development and health; preparation for adulthood; and encouraging educational achievement.

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