Host Care and Foster Care

They are talking a lot in the media at the moment about foster care for children who do not have the possibility of being raised by their biological families. Perhaps you would like to establish a friendship with a child from a children’s home, but you are not able to commit to this type of foster care…

Foster care provides a child with an irreplaceable environment within which it can establish intimate emotional relationships, something that is impossible to achieve within the framework of institutional care. Foster care, however, requires a large amount of patience plus a huge level of understanding and is, on the whole, very demanding. It is important, at the same time, to be aware of the fact that not all children are suitable for this kind of permanent placing in a foster home, even if they would wish to be. Children often end up at the children’s home at an older age, many of them are still in contact, even though often only very sporadically, with their biological families and do not want to be come a permanent member of a new family.

 Moreover, most people who are thinking about welcoming a child to their home are imagining a small, cute, tearful baby, yearning for it’s mother’s arms. Very few imagine a 15-year-old adolescent who smokes and who has been mentally deprived by the situations that, through no fault of his own, he has found himself in. But the children’s homes are mostly full of these children. That does not mean, however, that they do not need our help or that they wouldn’t appreciate it!!

The percentage of children who are returned from foster care back to the children’s homes is very high. It is not surprising. The role of a foster carer is not straightforward and if you are not thoroughly prepared for it, it is not easy to manage.

Anyone who is considering it should very carefully consider all the pros and cons of the situation and try to find out as much information as they can about the problems relating to it. Not even these people are able to protect themselves from possible surprises, disappointments and disillusionment. We do not, however, want to put anyone off foster caring by writing this, in fact just the opposite. It is just necessary to do everything possible to make sure that the serious decision of becoming a foster parent to one of these children, who have already had so many negative experiences that would have defeated even the strongest adults, is truly acceptable to both sides.

 Not everyone has the ability to offer a child a permanent home of which the biological parents are either incapable, or unwilling, to provide. There is a great shortage of foster homes.

Many children therefore spend their whole childhood in children’s homes where they are, in most cases, well cared for and from the materialistic side pretty well provided for. But they are missing so many emotional relationships, individual care and also the experience of being part of a functional family, which does not make their own future family life any easier.

 One possible solution as to how to secure for these children, who have either no, or infrequent, contact with their own families, at least partial individual care and the interest of someone outside of the home, is the so-called host care.

So what are we talking about? Even though the law does not recognise this title, it normally relates to the stay of a child, who lives at a children’s home, with a person other than a family member. It includes visiting the child at the children’s home, followed by visits to the host carer`s home, perhaps later weekend visits and even in some cases spending the holidays with the host family.

Host care is suitable for the so-called older children (from about 10 years and up), who are capable of understanding the principle of what is being offered and who will stay in institutional care until they reach adulthood.

Host care is mostly not known about, even though it is the only possibility for many older children in the children’s homes to see how an ordinary family functions and the relationships therein. The frequency of the contact depends on the possibilities of both sides involved and on mutual agreement. The family could take the child just once every two months for a few days or regularly every week for the weekend. In this way the child has a chance to create a long-term emotional grounding, which can sometimes naturally develop as in foster care.

 Host care is not suitable for all children!

It is not recommended for young children, who often become very quickly emotionally attached to the “substitute” family and are unable to understand the necessity of returning to the children’s home. It must always be voluntary on the part of the child as to whether they decide to go for the weekend to their “Aunt and Uncle’s” or not. Some children have no interest in visiting; this is natural and we have to respect their decision and not try and force them into anything. That would not bring any success.

 What are the biggest priorities of Host care?

During their visits to the host family the child has the unique opportunity to experience how an ordinary family functions. They can observe how the parents behave with the children and with each other. They have not normally seen or experienced this kind of behaviour within their biological families, so they have created an incorrect picture of how it should be. In a host family the child comes into contact with situations that they would never experience in a children’s home, they enjoy being praised, valued and the having the feeling of personal achievements and success. This is all very important for their personal development and future life. Regular contact with some “friends” outside the children’s home will hopefully also help to prevent “failure” to integrate when leaving the home. Host care also serves as a kind of anchor that helps the child to stay afloat as they enter into independent life. They have someone they can turn to for advice and help when they are trying to find solutions to often banal everyday activities, which a child growing up without a normally functioning family around them does not know how to deal with.

 Naturally, even in the case of host care we would not wish the interested party to make any premature decisions. If you are considering host care it is important to first think through everything and weigh up possible risks. All members of the family must agree with the decision! It could happen that the child just doesn’t get on with the family and would therefore not be interested in a further meeting. That is the reality with which you must take into account ahead of time.

We therefore recommend that all those interested should first attend training in the related areas.

 Let’s give children a chance o.p.s. provides free seminars twice a year, within the framework of the project “Find me…”, for people interested in giving this kind of care. The interested parties will be given basic information about the children from the children’ s homes, their specifics and their frequent behavioural patterns. We explain what host care means for the child, the family and for the general public. The necessary steps for becoming a host carer are described to you. We answer all your questions. The seminars are attended by lecturers who have years of experience with host care, by directors of children’s homes and even by youngsters who have had experience of host care. Those who attend the seminar have the opportunity of immediately looking at this problem from several different viewpoints.

 Where will you find children who are interested in host care? Please refer to the pages of the

project “ Find me…”

 If you would like more information or to ask something about this, please contact the project coordinator Ivana Vesela-, tel.: 603508701