Facing reports of rising child abuse across orphanages and children homes countrywide, the government is framing comprehensive rules for providing foster care services in India.
The woman and child development (WCD) ministry is coming up with regulations to place children under foster care for short or extended periods of time. The move follows a push by WCD minister Maneka Gandhi, who believes foster care can provide effective family-based support for needy children.
The proposal would cover children below 18 years of age, where parents have deserted or are unable to bring up their offspring due to illness or other reasons. Minors in conflict with the law would also be eligible for foster care services. The government would pay families providing foster care a monthly maintenance allowance, whose amount has not been finalized.
Though quite common in the West, foster care is largely used as a pre-adoption procedure in India. The Juvenile Justice Act provides for foster care but it suffers from lack of a proper definition and regulatory framework. Only two states – Delhi and Goa -- have passed foster care rules but implementation has been patchy.
Child activists have welcomed the move but want stringent monitoring.
“Regular supervision will have to be carried out to ensure that a child is not being abused or neglected by foster families. The government will have to adequately invest in training child-care workers and counsel families on handling children,” said Bharti Ali of HAQ, an NGO working on child rights.
Once a prospective family applies for a foster care licence, a Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in the respective state would conduct a thorough verification to check the family’s ability, intent, capacity and prior experience of taking care of children. “After the CWC gives its approval, the family would be issued a license, to be renewed every year, to provide foster care. Not more than two children would be placed in a foster family at any given time,” said a ministry official.
The ministry is yet to decide on the duration for which the child will be placed in foster care. In countries like the US and the UK, a child is placed in foster care for a maximum of two years.