Around 500 underage children are currently in the care of Social Welfare Services, many of whom were either removed from their families due to an abusive environment or because their parents were unable to meet their needs.
Speaking to philenews, head of the foster family association ‘Love Nest’ Dimos Thoma said that among them are 130 unaccompanied children who arrived in the Republic by sea and are living in state accommodation, and there are also 160 children placed with foster families under the responsibility of the Welfare Office.
He added that another 340 children are in need of foster families, which he said highlights the ‘enormous need’ for the practice to be expanded.
How does a family qualify for foster parenting?
A family that declares interest in fostering a child is investigated by Social Welfare Services to ensure that it is in a position to provide the right environment to children removed from their biological family for a number of reasons, like abuse or neglect.
As per the Social Services’ criteria, prospective foster parents must be adults who are in good physical, mental and emotional health. Their primary motivation must be to have enough reserves of love and stamina to care for a child that is not their own. In addition, if they have children of their own they need to explain to them all there is to know about fostering. Prospective foster parents must also be in a position to handle difficult situations, behaviours and feelings of the foster children, be capable of caring for children and offer positive experiences of a smooth family life.
Thoma said that as the expenses of raising a child are high, foster parents receive allowances that cover accommodation, clothing, food, care, personal minor expenses, transport expenses, diapers, out-of-school classes and cultivation of a special interest.
The allowance amount, he added, varies depending on the needs of each child, but noted that foster parents often contribute themselves to the care of foster children.
He also mentioned that some of the children require specialised treatments which are subsidised through government services.
Foster families closely monitored by Social Services
Asked on the monitoring and support of foster families by the Social Welfare Services, Thoma said that social workers are in close communication with the families in order to identify needs and intervene as required.
He added that social workers also have the authority to contact the children directly if they deem it necessary and can also perform unannounced visits at the foster families’ homes.