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The Practice of Foster Care in South Asia

 

The Foster Care Team at Udayan Care is conducting a research study to better understand the practice of foster care in South Asian Countries. Given the global shift from institutional care to family-based care for vulnerable children and the lack of tangible documentation of proper practices, processes and legislatures for foster family-care in the South Asian region, our team is motivated to address this issue of lack of reference material by providing an outline of various foster care models being implemented in the said region. The findings and analysis of this study would benefit childcare practitioners, policy makers, social researchers and general public. An electronic survey technique is used to gather information from various South Asian practice and advocacy organizations, government departments and researchers working in the field of childcare. We strongly believe, a holistic understanding of various facets of foster care would help promote a stable and more predictable family foster care ecosystem in South Asian countries.

Introduction

Family is the natural environment for children to grow. Children have the right to be cared for by their parents and parents have a responsibility to provide for their children's upbringing and development. These concepts are well understood in South Asia as children and families are a traditional foundation of all South Asian societies. Yet there are millions of children in South Asia who no longer have families, who have become separated from their families, or whose families represent a serious danger to their health or development. South Asia is home to 652 million children, of which 41 million are estimated to be orphans. 3.3 million children live in institutions and 2.9 million children who have one/both parents alive still live in children’s homes.

The most adverse event in a child’s life is separation from one or both parents disuniting the child’s first and primary source of protection and care. Illness, death, imprisonment of parents, parting due to relocation, removal from the family due to neglect or abuse, detention of the child or the child’s own initiative to leave home are some of the major reasons that deprive a child from parental care. These children often find themselves at a high risk of impaired emotional and social development, physical violence, exploitation, sexual abuse and neglect. There are growing concerns about the situation and number of children outside parental care and provision of alternative care arrangements in South Asia.

Alternative care refers to the spectrum of services available to children whose parents no longer provide adequate care. Alternative care comes in many different forms. In South Asia, most children outside parental care traditionally lived with their extended families in kinship care arrangements. However, institutional care currently is the most common type of alternative care provided by the State. In some countries, it is the only option formally supported and recognized by the government. Other types of alternative care, such as adoption and foster care (and other variations of family/community-based care) are also practiced, but to a very limited extent.

Institutional care has been noted as a particularly high-risk environment. The reliance of most South Asian countries on this form of alternative care has also been a reason for severe concern. There is enough evidence globally that suggests how children in institutional care experience delayed physical, behavioral and cognitive development. The lack of one-on-one human contact, play facilities, wholesome nutrition, adequate space, proper medical care and family upbringing are commonly observed problems in institutional care. Internationally, the child rights jurisprudence recognizes the need to shift from institutional care to family-based care. Removal of a child from a family and moving into institutional care is considered the last option only in the most extreme circumstances or for immediate/interim relief.

Family-based/non-institutional care ensures that children, who are deprived of parental care or rendered helpless, can be given an opportunity to have a safe, loving and affectionate family life. Families stimulate children to develop physical, social, emotional and cognitive skills. Therefore, foster family care is being widely recognized as a preferred alternative to institutionalization globally as it offers individualized care, attention and stimulation essential for child’s healthy development.

 

What is Foster Care?

Foster Care is a versatile family based non-institutional child care alternative that provides temporary or substitute care for a child who is separated from his/her family or whose respective biological parents are unable to care for them due to illness, death, desertion or any emotional crisis. It offers protection and a nurturing family environment, which is conducive for the healthy, normal growth of the child. Unlike adoption, it is a temporary arrangement to be used while the child’s own family overcomes a problem that prevents it from offering proper care to the child, or while a more permanent placement is being sought.

There are diverse ranges of foster care models practiced that work differently in each country according to their respective policies on foster care. Individual foster care, respite foster care, therapeutic care, kinship care, group foster care, child headed household, vacation foster placement, foster day care are few global contemporary models of foster care.

Foster Care in South Asia

If the rights of the child to family care are to be provided, then the current methods in South Asia, focusing largely on institutionalization are certainly not adequate and not in conformity with international conventions such as the UNCRC (UN Convention on the Rights of Child), or the UN Guidelines for Alternative Care. The use of foster care in South Asia is limited, and in many cases (even excluding kinship care arrangements) foster placements are informal.

In India, foster care has had a long history - first initiated in the 1960’s by the central government. The first non-institutional scheme was introduced in Maharashtra in 1972, which was revised in 2005 as the ‘Bal Sangopal Scheme - Non Institutional Services’. In the late 1990’s Karnataka implemented a foster care scheme focused on destitute children. Emergency schemes were operational in Gujarat, after the 2001 earthquake where around 350 children were rehabilitated with their relatives/neighbours.

Other notable lawmaking milestones in India’s foster care journey include the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 and Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) that promote family-based care services for children. ICPS’ main concern and objective is to make institutionalization the last resort of alternative care and to widen the scope beyond institutionalization by including more family/community-based care mechanisms. Although, the JJ Act provides for foster care, but until recently its implementation was hardly effective and operational that very few state governments have developed foster care programs.

A recent and promising update is that last year, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014 was introduced by Ms. Maneka Gandhi, the Minister of Women and Child Development, in the Lok-Sabha in August 2014. Most significant reference was to the formal introduction and promotion of foster care in India and the insistence of gradual de-institutionalization of children.

Amongst other South Asian countries, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have had some history of foster care. In Bangladesh, pilot programs for children in need of alternative care are being/have been carried out. Following Cyclone Sidr (in 2007), UNICEF ran a foster care program for children who lost their parents, in which 2,000 foster families had participated. In Sri Lanka, the Government Sevana Sarana Foster Parents Scheme, launched in 1988, has helped over 18,000 children to date.

Objective of this Study

The objective of this research study is to better understand and document the different models and best practices of foster care practiced by organizations in South Asian countries. 

Need for the Study

Our research finds its motivation from the ongoing global debate on institutional vs. family based care as discussed earlier. Even though foster care services are provided in different parts of South Asia, there is no concrete data available about the foster care organizations that exist here and the various models of foster care that are practiced. Therefore, this study is primarily being conducted in order to provide an outline of the foster care models and practices followed by different organizations in South Asia.

We, at Udayan Care, hope that this study would serve as a reference for social organizations working for child welfare, government departments, social researchers and the general public who want to study in depth or simply want to better understand foster care.

Significance of the Study

Udayan Care intends to address the said problem of lack of reference material and supporting documents on foster care through this study, a first of its kind in the country, as far as we could ascertain, that focuses on better understanding the foster care services provided by various organizations in South Asia. The findings and recommendations of the study will benefit childcare practitioners and policy makers.

Research Design & Methodology

This research largely depends on the electronic survey technique to gather information. In this study, we are inviting representatives from several south Asian practice organizations, government departments, social researchers and advocacy organizations, working in field of child welfare, to take the electronic survey that will help us understand the core aspects such as the target group (children), foster families/carers, procedures, legal framework, parent/carer networking and training, monitoring and government contribution in the implementation of foster placement.

Take part in the Study

As a part of this study, you will be asked to complete an electronic survey, which should take only 10 to 15 minutes of your time. Please take a few minutes to answer each question on the electronic survey as completely and accurately as possible.

 

We thank you for your contribution to this important survey. Please use this link to access the electronic survey: 

 

1.     For Organizations click here: 

2.     For Individuals and Researchers click here :