SOS For Foster Parents

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WANTED – 25 caring families to provide homes for 13 children who have already been cleared for fostering and others who will follow in the future.

That is the word from Coordinator of the Adoption and Foster Care Programme at the Child Care Board (CCB), Esther Bayley, who disclosed that the number of persons who were applying to foster children had dropped significantly over the past two years.

Ms. Bayley said: "Ideally we would like at least 25 families. We need to offer respite care to those foster parents who may be experiencing challenges because being a foster parent is a 24/7 task."

She pointed out that the Board must have families or homes available on an emergency basis. "For example, a parent may be evicted and we have to find a home to place those young children. Or a parent may have to be admitted to the hospital and there are no family members available to provide the needed care for a child or children.

"On occasions, the court also sends children to the Board for residential care, so there is always a need for caring persons or families to be on hand to assist in providing a home away from home for a child," she explained.?????????????????? ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? 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Child Care Officer disclosed that the Board currently had 19 foster parents who were caring for 27 children. She further revealed that most of the children from the residential homes who had been processed for Foster Care were over the age of five, while some were teenagers.

She urged those who could, to sign up for the Board’s programme, so these children could experience family life. "Fostering is a way of giving back to your community and a tangible way of showing love to a child. Children are our next generation and if each one could reach one, we could make an impact on our society…

"Yes, children do present challenging behaviour at times. Sometimes they may do things that frustrate the foster parents and put undue stress on them, but at the end of the day, these children know who has made the sacrifices for them and is there for them. Foster parents have the opportunity to impact positively on the lives of children, by showing them that despite the negative circumstances, there is someone who can enhance their lives and show them unconditional love," Ms. Bayley observed.

Fostering is caring for children in an approved home, as part of the family, either on a short term (a few days to six months) or long term (periods longer than six months) basis. These children come from the Child Care Board’s residential homes or from families that are in crisis or under some degree of stress, for example, a mother has to be admitted to the hospital, the family becomes homeless, a parent or guardian dies, or because of abuse, or abandonment. ????????????????????

Prospective foster parents do not have to fear being ???thrown in at the deep end’ because, as Ms. Bayley explained, workshops and training are provided for them to discuss various matters and to learn strategies for coping with any challenges which may occur.??

Some areas addressed in the workshops include the Board’s expectations of the foster parent, its regulations, how foster parents should deal with children in care, and how children should be disciplined, including punished.

"The foster parents are not left alone because the Board organises other seminars to help them deal with behavioural problems and challenges. The necessary counselling is provided because the Board recognises that any stressful situation in the foster parent’s life can have an impact on the entire family.

"Additionally, foster parents have access to Child Care Officers, regardless of the time; and resource persons are also available. The Board has psychologists who are there to provide intervention for children being placed in foster care and it has mandatory sessions, where the new foster parents and the children have meetings with these psychologists. What we are seeking to do is facilitate a smooth transition for both parties," the Senior Child Care Officer assured.

The Foster Care Programme started in 1981, and a number of parents and children have already participated in this life-changing initiative. A husband and wife team or a single woman may apply to the Child Care Board to foster a child. They are given financial assistance in the form of a monthly allowance, and the children are provided with clothing, school supplies and medical support.

The Child Care Board is reminding all persons, on the eve of Child Month (May), to remember that our children are an inheritance from the creator. It is imperative that we do whatever we can to ensure they have a good childhood, even if it means becoming a foster parent to them, when the need arises. The assistance we give today will help them develop vital qualities and skills to become productive citizens tomorrow.

saustin@barbados.gov.bb

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