Foster families needed for under sevens
Valencia’s regional government is searching for foster homes for 71 children aged under seven years’ old, who are currently in care, most of whom have special needs.
Some are disabled or recovering from illness or injury, others have psychological problems, and a number of them are in care with their brothers and sisters and must not be separated.
The campaign, entailed Acollir és creixer. Millor en família or ‘Fostering is growing. Better in a family, focuses on the fact that children under seven are the most vulnerable to emotional, learning and even physical growth problems through not living in a proper home, and includes a video with real foster families explaining the advantages they enjoy through caring for these children.
At present, Valencia has 3,730 children under care orders, of whom 2,639 are living with extended or direct family members, 620 in foster homes, and 145 in pre-adoption families.
But around 1,100 children live in care homes, of whom 71 are aged under seven years.
Equality minister for Valencia and vice-regional president Mònica Oltra says her team wants to work towards children’s homes being abolished altogether.
“The key to healthy child development is simply having at least one adult who is absolutely crazy about you,” says Oltra, although she admits closing down children’s shelters is unlikely to happen in the next few years.
Psychological research has shown that the emotional and cognitive impact of internment on children is negative long-term, especially the most at-risk groups – those with ‘functional diversity’ such as mental health problems, disability, ethnic minorities or those in poverty – and children aged three and under. In all these cases and, ideally, all lower-risk cases too, internment in a children’s home should be ‘extremely limited’ to ‘very, very short periods of time’, given that youngsters who grow up in family homes show better levels of academic success and social integration as adults.
In total, Valencia wants to find 900 foster families across the three provinces of the region.
Pre-requisites to applying are merely, ‘having the time and, above all, the desire’ to attend to displaced children and to ‘help them overcome the powerful emotional damage’ they have suffered, says Oltra.
Fostering is, psychologically, more difficult for families, since the child only stays with them until their situation at home is resolved. But if this does not happen within two years, the foster family has the right to permanent custody of the child until he or she turns 18.
The regional government says it will guarantee foster children can go to school near their temporary home, even the same school as their foster brothers and sisters, even if this leads to the centre becoming oversubscribed.
Informational talks and the necessary training will be given free of charge to anyone who decides to take the leap. Some benefits will be given to help towards costs.
The regional government is working on ways to help adult foster children survive.
“It’s cruel to just chuck them out onto the street when they hit 18,” says Oltra.
More lenient conditions for ‘social inclusion’ or cost-of-living benefits, and bonuses for companies in the region which take on young adults leaving foster care are at the planning stage.