Foster care: change on the horizon in India

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Foster care: change on the horizon in India

In 2016, June 7 to be precise, the Ministry of Women and Child Development set out its Model Guidelines for Foster care, including a revised procedure for the provision of group foster care. This is enormously encouraging: behind the strategies there is always the human story to take account of. So the cry of a six-month old child in a flat in Mumbai may well herald momentous changes in the provision of foster care in India. By crying out, this child, Anjali, immediately got the attention of Gitanjali Rohokole – along with her daughter Tarada – the pair rushed to check that the baby was alright. It was: but this was certainly not the case recently when she was found abandoned and destitute by the police. Two months of hospital care followed. After this an NGO Family Service Centre found Gitanjali – a rare individual for she was a prospective foster carer in a country where the concept of foster care is still very poorly understood. What is so significant, is that there is likely to be a huge demand to foster: what is now needed is a national framework to provide a universally consistent and monitored form of provision.

The Rohokole family, hopefully, point the way to a future where fostering can take root in this vast and populous nation. They are relatively affluent and part of a growing number of better-off Indians deciding to foster. When she is asked about fostering, Gitanjali usually gets the response “Foster? Is that like adoption?…all she wants to do is to provide homeless unloved children a caring home.
It may be significant that her family lives in Mumbai in the unfolding story of fostering in India: here it was way back in 1971, that the Family Service Centre in Mumbai became the very first to place children in foster homes in India. A bit more investigation reveals that the present day employees there think Jenny Talwalkar; who was a trustee of the Centre, was quite possibly the first woman to become a foster mother in the country.

In 2016 some forty-five years later, the Ministry of Women and Child Development has now drafted its Model Guidelines for Foster Care, 2016. Its intention is to set down a revised procedure for group foster care. These new guidelines, taken together with the Regulations for Adoption 2016 (which looks into pre-adoption foster care under the Juvenile Justice Act) aims to provide greater encouragement for more people to consider the foster care option.

Providing clarity around the current situation is the programme manager for (SARA) Maharashtra’s State Adoption Resource Agency; Amol Shinde –

“There are two kinds of foster care, one where children are placed in pre-adoptive care before they get legally adopted. And the second category is of children who cannot get adopted due to physical or mental disability and need to be looked after until they turn 18.”

Avanti More is a Programme officer with the NGO and feels still more clarity is needed to explain what foster care is all about. It ay be surprising, but there are still some CWCs (Child Welfare Committees) that remain unclear about provisions relating to foster care. So what is the current situation at a higher level? The guidelines and training sessions produced by central government aim to provide Child Welfare officers with more knowledge about foster care procedure. The intention is also to get more NGOs participating in the process. One NGO based in Bangalore when it carried out a survey, found that in all of India there are only thirty organisations placing children in foster homes in the whole of India: Maharashtra has eight and Kerala has 14.

Ian Anand, who set up the Center of Excellence in Alternative Care of Children in New Delhi in 2015 stated:

“The new guidelines will help the CWC in several states understand how to go about foster care. Until now, only some forward thinking CWC were able to permit foster care,”

Ian was himself an adopted child after being abandoned in Kolkata as a baby. He was later adopted by a US-based couple: “I returned to give back something to the country in which I was born,” he said. He has considerable knowledge about the current situation in India: he has found that only Maharashtra, Karnataka, Delhi, Goa and Rajasthan have been successful in outlining some basic guidelines for the provision of foster care in their particular states. Ian Anand has explained:

“Fostering is a brand new concept in India. There is a big difference between how Western and Indian families work in foster care. In the West, foster parents are licensed,” he says. In India, SOME NGOs shortlist and register foster families after thorough assessment But cannot legally make any decision for fostering. The CWC does play a role, but it needs to be strengthened and supported. “What we need is systematisation of licensing, foster care procedures and counselling of parents and children.”

A timely initiative for a standardised model for foster care provision
Aijaz Ahmad, the Director of Rainbow Fostering, with nearly twenty years experience of running an independent fostering agency here in the UK, has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Jamia Millia Islamia university: its goal is nothing less than the creation of a universal fostering service provision model for India. It aims to drive this process forward by taking into account the procedures, checks and balances of the UK fostering service model to point toward the part that a similarly fully functioning model can play in transforming India and its future prospects. The start point will be to create an environment which is favourable to foster caring through building awareness via advocacy and networking. The intention is to set up a National Resource Centre the purpose of which will be to undertake the training and career development of child care professionals. The intention is to initiate a pilot project based around tested methodology which would include: organising symposia, conferences, workshops, training programmes well as certified courses. It should be possible to create an operational template that may easily be replicated.

The programme is being developed under the title – ‘Fostering Children for a Better Nation’. In a country where there are well over 20 million orphans, fostering clearly has a vital role to play. Both the rewards and stakes are high – a situation best expressed in the closing words of Aijaz Ahmad at the signing of the Memorandum:
“I would like to leave everyone with two final thoughts: firstly a nation’s greatest resource is its own people – and secondly – a society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest and most vulnerable members…we can all play a part in ensuring that the judgement is a favourable one.”

And the good news at the end of this rainbow…some great reaction continuing to come in from our recent music, singing and production course: we’ve hit the ‘Wow’ factor, next stop the ‘X’ factor.

Follow up our ‘Rainbow Rewards
And you also will be eligible for our Rainbow bonus: we pay a bonus of £500 if you are in a position to refer someone to be a carer. If you are already an approved foster carer – already caring for a child (children) on a long-term basis, you can quite easily transfer to Rainbow be eligible for a bonus. It’s an extremely straightforward process and – we provide all the necessary support and guidance every step of the way. If interested, please call for more details today – discover the benefits of joining our welcoming family of foster carers. We’ll answer any general questions you might have about types of fostering, foster care how much does it pay and even what you need to know about fostering babies.

If you foster, keep up to date with the issues that matter
Refer to our special news section on Rainbow Fostering’s web site. It has articles of interest if you foster also intended to be of general interest – Latest article: ‘Recognition for foster carers in Wales’ Simply visit http://bit.ly/2e8PrIK

Foster change in India

Foster change across a continent

And please feel free to contact us with your own views or experiences.

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