Maha’s foster care scheme: Take care of kids for 1-3 yrs
The state government is launching a foster care scheme under which citizens can parent children from state-run child care institutions for a limited period of one to three years. The scheme is being implemented as a pilot project in five districts including Mumbai suburban. The government has invited applications from interested parents.
Maharashtra has about 450 government-run institutes that house thousands of children who are either orphaned or whose parents are unable to raise them. Children living in these child-care institutions and between the ages of 7 to 18 may be placed with families under the foster care scheme.
“The basic principle of the Juvenile Justice Act is non-institutional parenting of children. Besides the adoption scheme, this is an opportunity for the children to live with the unrelated families albeit for a limited period. Their stay in the families will help them their qualitative growth,” said Manisha Birasis, program manager of the integrated child protection scheme and assistant commissioner, department of women and child development.
Birasis said district-level committees comprising district women and child welfare officers, child protection officers, members of the child welfare committee and protection officers of non-institutional care will look into the background of the family who apply to foster children. “There will be strict monitoring every 15-30 days by us with the help of interaction with the principals of the schools, neighbours of the family and with the child itself. Children in conflict with the law, those living in observation homes and those in the age group of zero to six years are excluded from the scheme. The first category is excluded for security reasons, while children younger than six years have prospects of permanent adoption, which is our top priority. Children from child care institutes and in the age group of six-18 years are being placed in this scheme, among which our first preference will be the children between six-10 years,” she said.
Explaining the difference between adoption and foster care, Birasis said adoption gives parents the rights of biological parents while foster care is temporary and the parents have no legal rights over the child.
“The Juvenile Justice Act of 2015 emphasises non-institutional parenting of children and foster care is the scheme launched to fulfill the principle. The selection of a family, monitoring the parenting and follow-up are the crucial things that will have to be followed rigorously by authorities. They will have to ensure the children are not misused. Not only the children in the government institutes, but those from poor families who cannot take care of their children can be given out temporarily to families willing to take on the onus of parenting,” said Santosh Shinde, child rights expert.
Child-care institutes house children who have been abandoned or whose parents cannot raise them. For the pilot project, 40 children from each of the five districts – Mumbai suburban, Pune, Palghar, Solapur and Amravaiti – are being placed in non-institutional parenting, with financial assistance of Rs 2,000 a month to the family that takes in the child from the institution.
Hrishikesh Yashod, commissioner, women and child development, said the scheme has scope for revision and expansion depending on its success in the first phase. “We will expand it to other districts and the number of children placed can also be revised. The success of the scheme largely depends on selection of the families in which the children are placed for caring. We have a robust mechanism and broad-based committee for such selection. We have been implementing Bal Sangopan Yojana (BSY) for years in which children are placed in extended families if the biological family is not able to take care of their children due to financial crisis. In BSY, we give monthly financial assistance of Rs 425 to the family in which the child is placed,” he said.