The term “foster care” is used in a variety of ways, and, consequently, it often causes confusion and miscommunication. In the industrialised world it is generally used to refer to formal, temporary placements made by the State with families that are trained, monitored and compensated at some level. In countries like Uganda however, fostering is kinship care or other placement with a family, the objective(s) of which may include the care of the child, the child’s access to education, and to ensure that children outside family care are safe, and thrive within a loving family.
At Child’s i, we use the term “foster care” and “community parents” interchangeably because our communities do not use the term foster care.
Since 2018, we have placed 250 children in families. We have supported 126 foster carers to be approved to ensure that children outside family care never have to spend a night in an orphanage.
“… the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding” UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
With support from The Martin James Foundation (MJF), we are working with duty bearers and the community to demonstrate community led alternatives to orphanages. The project identifies, trains and assesses community parents (foster carers) who are then approved by an independent Alternative Care Panel (ACP). Community parents (Foster carers) help to make a real difference to children facing imminent risk in the community. They provide a safe and loving environment for children who would have otherwise been placed in an orphanage.
By opening their homes, they provide love and care which enables children outside parental care to thrive. At Child’s i, community parenting (Foster Care) is usually temporary as we trace the child’s family in cases of abandonment, or find other family members, where a child has been separated from their birth family because of violence or to prevent harm. In most cases we prefer to strengthen and support families to remain with their children ensuring we prioritise the best interest of the child.
Community parents (Foster carers) play an important role in a situation where a child’s own family is not providing adequately for his or her care. It can provide protection and care for the child while the family situation is improved, with the eventual aim of family reunification.
In situations of abandonment or transition from an orphanage where a child’s birth family or kinship family cannot be located, we prepare the child to be fostered for adoption, so that there is permanency.
Foster care training is key in enabling foster parents to acquire knowledge and skills in parenting, attachment theory, child development theories, play and much more to ensure they understand their responsibilities, children rights and how to care for children living with disabilities. It is through these training sessions that parents are also prepared for a time when a child has to be reunified or placed back with their birth family or a relative.
During a training session conducted in Wakiso District, prospective foster carers had this to say about foster parenting:
I was approached by a social worker and this interested me in fostering children. We realised that all children deserve families and love from parents. With the continuous support from social workers, I am ready to foster children and I have learnt so much about their rights and nutrition
It is through this love that children feel appreciated and important. When I look at how children are treated and have challenges while growing up. I am convinced that even if I don’t have much, I can still take care of children in my care
I want to be part of a movement that gives children what they deserve and honour their rights. I want to be a champion for children’s rights and safeguard them
Through these training, we were told that the best place for children is a family and we should love them. I have learnt that children are supposed to have parental bonds and attachments regardless of who the biological parent is.
It is good for children to grow in a diverse environment and it is a blessing to God. I have learnt alot from these training, for example how to handle children, love, understanding and listening to them. I will love them, train them, care for them, raise them with values until they are of age of consent.
I didn’t look at what I would gain from fostering but it’s the heart to help vulnerable children. God has always provided for us and I know he can provide.
My father used to take care of children and I would love to keep his legacy by opening my home and family to many more.
I told my wife about foster care and she was responsive about fostering and I believe we can facilitate children with basic needs, we can feed, love, support, pay school fees, medical needs too.