Kerala’s foster care scheme hindered by Covid-19

Covid-19 Foster care Kerala State

The number of people who come forward to take children for foster care from child care institutions in Kerala has decreased because of the pandemic.

Kerala: On National Foster Care Day, the state is struggling to promote foster care.Fewer people are opting for taking in foster children during the pandemic so Kerala’s Child Care Institutions (CCI) are unable to send as many children for foster care as they did before in 2019. The entire family must take the RT-PCR test and provide the results to the CCIs in order for the child to be placed in foster care.

Nearly 20,000 children are placed in the state’s 817 child care centres, according to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act, 2015. The state government is supporting the idea of foster care, which provides homely care for children from orphanages and child institutions. But the scheme has been disrupted by the pandemic. As part of the Sadaanam Balyam Scheme, children are placed in homes across the state.

Sharanya. C.G, Child Protection Officer, Thrissur district said, “People usually come to adopt children under the age of five, but very few people choose adopting preschoolers, so we placed them in foster care to provide them a loving environment. Before sending the child, we conduct a home study and check the family’s history. Children above the age of 10 are not placed in foster care.”

‘’Some people who take children into long-term foster care adopt them after a certain period of time. We also send orphans to foster care rather than children with parents because they need to experience a homey environment, which can be very beneficial to them. The government is doing all it can to promote the scheme in all districts, and we are getting a lot of positive feedback. However, people are losing interest as the paperwork has increased, and families now have to do an RT-PCR test before applying for foster care of a child,” she added.

Preetha. G. Nair, manager of Child Care Institution, Kollam said,“Previously, after the order was issued from the district child protection office, the parents could take the child within a few days, but now, due to the pandemic, they must wait longer to obtain custody of the child for foster care.”

Children are either placed in foster care for a short period of time or for an extended period of time. If the child is happy with his or her relatives, the district child protection officers will prolong the child’s stay and encourage them to adopt him or her.

Ashwini. P, Child Protection Officer , Thrissur said,”As a result of the positive response we received in 2019, when our story was featured in the news, even more people inquired about the children in need of foster care. Since the number of cases is rising, the RT-PCR test has been made mandatory. People are hesitant to leave their homes to go to the lab for the exam.”

“People who have shown an interest in being placed in foster care are placed on a waiting list. We’ll do home studies for a month and then take the kids by the end of May. As the number of cases rises, we need to consider the child’s safety. Children who have lost their parents at a young age and have no one to look after them are put in foster care by the child welfare committee. When putting children in foster care, we give them higher priority,” she added.

The state government introduced a kinship foster-care initiative in 2019 with the aim of reducing reliance on childcare institutions (CCIs) and ensuring full care for children who are living in such institutions. The government would accept the responsibility for their treatment and safety to willing relatives under this initiative. The government contributes Rs 2,000 per month to the child’s expenses. The women and child development department has also contributed Rs 84 lakh to the scheme.

“I received three cases in which the family did not want to continue caring for the child and told us. This isn’t something that happens very often. These children receive psychological assistance from us. Our main goal is to deinstitutionalize children and help them live happier lives,’’ Ashwini. P added.

Sanadha Balyam was founded by the Social Justice Department in April 2007 to encourage the adoption of children from the State’s approximately 1,400 recognised orphanages. The scheme seeks to provide foster care placement for orphaned or neglected children, and one of its biggest accomplishments is that child-care centres across the state now know what to do with the adoptable children they keep.

Shivani Singh, Child Psychologist said,” The environment in the foster home has a huge impact on the child. How a foster home stay will affect a child is a subjective thing. It affects most negatively on the emotionally vulnerable children. Childhood is a tender, impressionable age so a lot of psychological assessment and interventions should be a part of any such transition.”

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