When considering the issues that relate to foster care in the UK, it quickly becomes apparent that there is an amazing degree of complexity with opinion usually divided. Different government departments are affected by the longer term consequences of so many young people in the care system – resulting in spiralling costs. Add the array of different competing interest groups involved – collectively termed ‘Stakeholders’ – and it is easy to sense that a clear direction is lacking. What further complicates the situation, is the near constant presence of media attention: landmark cases where children have been harmed, or even tragically lost their lives, resonate on in the public imagination: it seems the nation is always on the verge of another story of neglect and organisational ineptitude. Pressure has been building over a number of years and the system is now creaking. Over 9,000 new foster families are needed in the UK this year alone: experienced foster carers are retiring – many of the referrals sent out by local authorities are for young people with; in the jargon, ‘challenging behaviours’. This means at the very moment experienced, resilient foster carers are needed as never before, they are being lost to the system. As the problems are endemic, this year government has been forced to pilot schemes that could represent a marked change in the provision of foster care. So as the system in the UK buckles, it is worth considering how other countries approach foster care.
At Rainbow fostering we now have a unique opportunity to explore this at first hand – as well as play a role in the way foster care might be managed in another country. India is the second most populous country in the world, with 1.3 billion people and comprising nearly a fifth of the world’s population. So it is a reasonable presumption there will be a high number of children not being looked after in their own families – or being looked after by anyone at all. India, with its vast scale and extremes of wealth and poverty, is now tackling a problem that this country – despite being a member of the G7 – is now struggling with. This means that a collaborative project of the kind Rainbow fostering is pioneering, will offer a unique chance to think along new lines about foster care within an international context. Rainbow have created an international brand to represent the work we will be doing and we are currently producing a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ to provide the framework within which to work with key partners – Jamia Millia Islamia – the public central university located in Delhi; and the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Research (CECDR) which was itself established through a collaboration between Jamia Millia Islamia and Save the Children, India. http://jmi.ac.in/cecdr We are fortunate in having the support and collaboration of the Vice-Chancellor of the JMI, Professor (Dr.) Talat Ahmad FNA, FASc, FNASc
In international terms, the concept of foster care is relatively new: in present day India, the foster care system is in its infancy. The Central Adoption Resource Authority has recently made efforts and set a priority on domestic, safe adoptions for example. Significantly, the country is moving in the direction of non-institutional care options for the delivery of adoption and fostering services. Indian states are given the authority to expand their child protection laws with the implementation of non- institutional care varying in each state.
Cultural considerations have an effect: in India, it has been found for example, that families may choose foster care over adoption as there is no obligation to make a foster child a legal heir to property the parents may have. This links with another negative aspect common to both adoption and foster care worldwide: namely, children living under both forms of care may not receive equal treatment given to the biological children of the family. To solve this, India’s Juvenile Justice Act (2000,2006) and Integrated Child Protection Scheme (2009) contain provisions relating to foster care, ensuring regular checks are kept on the parents so that no child’s rights are affected detrimentally.
Assessing differences between foster care and adoption, both provide the means for a child to be cared for in a family setting, but, the international scope for foster care is still taking shape. The direction of travel is toward providing a new model/option for childcare provision in India. This is an absolute priority for India is a country with over 30 million orphans: only a few thousand were ‘saved’ through adoption last year. All the others are kept in private or public orphanages. The remainder are at extreme risk from neglect, abuse and exploitation. Although there are laws permitting foster care, as a practice, fostering is still very rare across the country. This means that the opportunity exists to create a system with the potential to be scaled up to deliver foster care efficiently and economically across the entire country.
The CEO of Rainbow Fostering, Aijaz Ahmad will be playing the lead role in developing this important initiative. Aijaz has a Master’s degree in Social Work with over 25 years experience in working and managing foster care services in the UK. He is a successful entrepreneur with an exceptional track record of establishing and successfully running businesses in Europe and India. Aijaz has built a range of networks spanning the Health & Social Care Sector, IT industry and the world of business in the UK, Europe, and India. Aijaz has been awarded Bharat Samman (Excellence Award-2005) by the NRI Institute for significant contribution in the chosen field of work and commitment to the Motherland. The award was presented to him by H.E. Sir Michael Arthur, KCMG, the British High Commissioner to India.
The next blog on this landmark project will examine what in India is meant by ‘family’ – as well as the cultural and economic imperatives that will influence the way foster care might be delivered.
And the good news at the end of this particular rainbow…as we post this blog, our CEO at Rainbow, Aijaz Ahmad will soon be addressing an audience of luminaries at Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi, India. This marks the start of putting together a joint initiative between JMI – the public central university – and Rainbow International Fostering. This is designed to develop an efficient model for the wider management and delivery of fostering services.