Children’s homes and types of substitute family care

The recent confirmation that some children’s homes are going to close will hurt the children living in those homes the most. If someone finds out, via the media, news of that fact that these homes are due to close, they logically come to the conclusion that there is no point trying to help the children from them. At the present time we have no other alternative to offer the children who are unable to live with their own biological families. There are still not enough people interested in providing foster care. The percentage of children that are returned to the institutes from foster care is very high. It is not surprising. In debates about foster care it would be necessary to make a distinction between the ages of the children, which is unfortunately not happening at the moment. People, on the whole, imagine receiving a tiny, cute, tearful baby who yearns for his mother’s arms. Very few imagine a 15- year -old adolescent who smokes and has been mentally deprived by the situations that, through no fault of his own, he 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 that are returned from foster care 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 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.

Why not just admit that both variants could exist side-by-side….children’s homes and foster care, without the supporters of either this or that form of care for the children, who can not grow up in their own families, creating two enemy camps.

What possibilities exist for children to be able to experience life as part of an ordinary family?

 We have two well-known forms of so-called “substitute family care”:

 Adoption – the adoption of a child is probably the most recognized of them. It mostly concerns newborns and young children who are legally eligible.

This means that the biological parents have given up their parental rights or they were taken away from them by the courts.

There are unfortunately still very few of these children. The interest in adoption is sadly far higher than the amount of children that are eligible. This can only be resolved by a change in the law, which would weaken the rights of the biological parents of the children.

Adoption is an irrevocable process, which in practice means that the adoptive parents become de facto the new parents of the children with all the legalities and responsibilities that come with it. In the same way the adopted child has the same rights as have biological children in families. Adoptive parents are not entitled to any financial support from the state.

 Foster care – from the outside long-term foster care and adoption don’t, in the main, seem very different. The child grows up in an alternative family which he practically sees as his own. It has, however, completely different legislation. The foster carer can only be an individual chosen by the court. The carer can only represent the child in everyday matters. Neither does the child have the rights of a biological child. The legal relationship of fostering ends, at the latest, when the child reaches adulthood. The legal representatives of the child remain the biological parents, who are informed on the whereabouts of where the child is living. They have the right to visit and make decisions on important matters relating to the child (for example on the issuing of a passport, trips abroad, choice of schools, etc.). If the situation of the biological family changes and they are able in future to take care of the child, they are able to apply to the courts for the return of the child to their care, where their request will be considered. Foster carers receive from the state the so-called foster care benefit for the child.

Newly in existence is the so-called “foster care for a transitional period”, which provides care in a foster home for a very necessary (but quite short) amount of time. The children who should be placed in transitional foster care are those who, at the present time, are unable to stay with their families but the assumption is that either the situation will be resolved very quickly and that they will therefore be able to then return to their biological family, or to their following place of adoption or long-term foster care. The aim, in these cases, is to avoid the child having to go into institutional care.

 One further type of help exists for children in the form of contact with a child, who does not fall into the category of alternative family care, that not many people know about. It is nowhere near such a commitment as foster care, but even so can enormously help many children – host care

 What is, in fact, “host care” and what are it’s benefits?

Host care is defined as being long-term and repeated contact with a child that lives in a children’s home, with a person or persons that are not biologically related to the child. We are talking about visiting a child in the institute and of the child visiting the host carers home, for example for the weekend or for the holidays. It is the ideal form of help for the older children in care (over 10 years of age), who are able to accept and understand the scheme and for whom there is a small chance of being returned to the own families or of finding a substitute family. The concrete example of seeing a functioning family, which they have practically no experience of either from the children’s home or from their biological families, is the best form of help for them for what follows after leaving the institute. These children suffer most from their unfulfilled emotional needs. Host care fulfills their need to have “someone of their own”, who gives the child one to one care, shows interest in them and gives them a chance to be accepted for who they are. An emotional relationship is formed, which is the most important and valued result of caring for a child. Every single positive relationship that a person makes during their life is important for them and greatly helps to form their self worth.

The aim of host care is to give a child from a children’s home the chance to get to know a normal functioning family, to take part at least for a short time in the lives of these families, create stable emotional ties and experience how relationships work and the ways of communication between partners and between parents and children. Children’s homes, even though they try very hard, are unable to fulfill this needs. Furthermore, it is a chance to enjoy success, compliments ( when we are on a visit we are naturally more well-behaved than normal) and with this we help to motivate them towards more positive behaviour. This greatly helps all children with their psychological development. A great help to the child is if the long-term host care continues to accompany the child through into the beginning of their independent life, once they have to leave the children’s home. At this difficult time, when they miss having a close friend nearby who could advise, help and support them and not leave them to deal with everything on their own, children often fail.

 What are the pitfalls relating to host care?

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 possibly, therefore, of looking at the problem immediately from several different viewpoints.