So many of us have heard about the foster care system. Foster care system may be a short term arrangement during which adults provide for the care of a toddler or children whose birth parent is not able to care for them. Foster care is not where juvenile delinquents go. It is where children go when their parents cannot, for many reasons, care for them. Foster care can be informal or arranged through the courts or a welfare agency. The goal for a child in the foster care system is typically reunification with the birth family, but could also be changed to adoption which is often seen as in the child’s best interest.
HISTORY OF FOSTER CARE IN INDIA
In India, the background of foster care can be traced back to 1960, when the same was first initiated by the Central Government. The first non-institutional scheme was initiated in Maharashtra in 1972. The scheme was overdue amended in 2005 as the “Bal Sangopal Scheme, Non-Institutional Services”. In the late 1990’s Karnataka initiated a foster care scheme for destitute children. Moreover, the emergency schemes were running in Gujarat, after the 2001 earthquake where about 350 children were rehabilitated with their relatives and neighbors in the community. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and Integrated Child Protection Scheme, 2009 (ICPS) presently include the provisions for foster care.
HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM ADOPTION
Adoption is a legally long life living situation where the biological parent’s rights are given up and the child becomes a legal member of the adoptive family. Foster care is a short term living situation in which the foster family has guardianship only. The child’s biological parents still remain his or her legal parents, until their parental rights get discontinued by law. So, we can say adoption is legally permanent and foster care is short term.
In cases of foster care, the foster parents are in charge for providing the child with all the facilities of family life, to nurture children so as to benefit their personal growth and identity, without sustaining control of a child’s assets or rights. In India, the foster care system is in its early years. The Central Adoption Resource Authority in India has recently made responsive effort to place priority on domestic, safe adoptions and the entire country is moving toward a focus on non-institutional care options. Indian states are given the power to expand their child protection laws, and the implementation of non-institutional care varies by state.
SOCIAL CHANGES IN INDIAN FOSTER CARE
A strategy expert firmly believes that the beginning before proceeding to other options in foster care is the need to strengthen families of origin. It’s a slip to separate the development of children from families. Better funding for prevention would be an honest start. Prevention has been proven effective, while comparatively foster care and adoption have traditionally been funded at higher rates. A coordinated attempt of professional organizations and schools of welfare work is required to assist the public understand the reality of the foster care arena. Another way to fight the stigma associated with foster care is to educate the general public. Children failing in foster care is not the problem that it used to be, thanks to the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, which mandates the onset of permanency arrangement as soon as a child enters foster care.
A LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR FOSTER CARE IN INDIA
Foster care in India is governed by few legal and policy instruments:
· Model Guidelines for Foster Care, 2016
This absolute document contains, inter alia, relevant concepts, words and phrases, principles, responsibilities of foster carers/ parents, procedures for placement of children in foster care, monitoring and review, roles of authorities and agencies, formats for various components of foster care administration like child study report, application form for foster carers/ parents, counselling of children, foster families, biological families and observing tools for foster care placement and other activities.
· Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Model Rules, 2016
Rule 23 of the act looks after various aspects of foster care like role of District Child Protection Unit and Child Welfare Committee, preconditions to be confirmed by foster care families, standards for choosing group foster care setting, duties of foster carers, and other procedural matters.
· Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015
The Juvenile Justice Act 2015 authorizes foster care as a measure for rehabilitation and social reintegration of children in need of care and protection. Section 44 of the Act looks after different aspects of foster care that include, among other things, selection of foster family, monthly funding, responsibilities of foster family and survey of foster families.
· Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), 2014
ICPS strongly supports family-based care of children. It deals, inter alia, with procedures for sanction and release of funds under foster care programme, Sponsorship and Foster Care Fund, and Sponsorship and Foster Care Approval Committee.
· National Policy for Children, 2013
It gives priority to family and community-based care of children among which foster care is one of the arrangements.
CHALLENGES IN DOMESTIC FOSTER CARE
When children, especially teens, are placed into group homes, they’re denied the power to connect with a permanent, adoptive family. Without those connections, they’re likely to age out of the system without a strong network in place. We frequently discuss about adoption or aging out as the only two options after foster care, but reuniting with a parent is an option often overlooked. It’s actually common, with about half of all youth who leave foster care re-joining with their parents. For several children in the foster care system, their frustrations stem from one main source, they feel their voices go unheard. Some children may feel frustrated with the foster care system because they’re persistently under surveillance. There are often a lot of players within the lives of foster children, guardians, advocates, social workers, courts and more.
PROCESS FOR FOSTER CARE IN INDIA
· Preparation of Individual Care Plan
Individual care plan (ICP) is prepared by the case worker/social worker/ probation officer who has been given the case of the child on the prescribed form (Form 7 of the Juvenile Justice Rules 2016). ICP is evaluated periodically.
· Preparation of Child Study Report
An in depth Child study report (CSR) for each child is identified for placing in foster care is created on Form 31 of the Juvenile Justice Rules 2016.
· Recommendation of child for foster care
Recommendation for foster care is made by child welfare officer/ social worker of Child Care Institution (CCI) keeping in mind the ICP and CSR. A list of identified children is passed on to the District Child Protection Unit (DCPU) by the CCI person-in-charge.
· Procedures prior to Final Placement Order by the CWC
The Model Guidelines for Foster Care 2016 prescribes different procedures for placement with foster family and in group foster care.
· Final Placement Order by the Child Welfare Committee
Child Welfare Committee gives its final order, for placement in family foster care or group foster care, after evaluating the compatibility report given by DCPU, and sends a copy of the order to DCPU for action. While final order is given ordinarily within 60 days of passing the interim order in cases which do not require financial support, likewise the time for cases requiring financial support is 75 days.
· Undertaking by Foster Carers/Parents
The foster parent and care givers of the fit facility sign an agreement for foster care of the child in the prescribed format (Form 33 in JJ Rules 2016)
RECENT FOSTER CARE STATISTICS IN INDIA
On September 30, 2018, there have been an approximate 437,283 children in foster care. On September 30, 2018, nearly one-third of those children (32 percent) were in relative homes, and nearly half (46 percent) were in nonrelative foster family homes. On September 30, 2018, about half (56 percent) had a case goal of reuniting with their parents or primary caretakers. About half (49 percent) of the children who left foster care in FY 2018 were discharged to be reunited with their parents or primary caretakers. Near to half of the children (43 percent) who left foster care in FY 2018 were in care for less than 1 year.
Today’s children are tomorrow’s future. Every child is special and deserves to be with a family. Adoption and foster care are such mechanisms which might significantly improve the situation of the children in India who are in dire need of it. India has come far from the tradition and conservative approach and we have seen the development of these systems through various schemes but still a few shortcomings have to be corrected. Also, if Indian children put up for intercountry adoptions can have immense facilities within the adoptive countries, why can’t we? Development of the nation will only be through the event of its offspring. The country’s talent must not be wasted.
Author: Riya Mane