CPFSA driving to secure 150 foster parents
With over 1,000 children in foster care across the island, the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) is on a drive to recruit 150 new foster parents to take on the close to 2,000 children who now require foster care.
As part of the activities scheduled in observance of National Foster Care Recognition Week, the agency, on February 18, conducted a drive-through dubbed ‘Foster Care Road Relay’, covering the central parishes of Manchester, Clarendon and St Elizabeth, to increase awareness about foster parenting.
According to Francine Rhoomes, the southern regional director at the CPFSA, part of the agency’s thrust is to ensure that no child from birth to three years is placed in institutional care.
Rhoomes told The Gleaner that Jamaicans are not as keen about foster parenting as the agency would have liked, and this requires the implementation of new programmes and initiatives to help potential foster parents buy into the vision.
“We now have a new kind of foster care called Kingship Fostering – where we find that persons are more willing to assist their family members, and a lot of them will come forward to get the assistance of the agency. So the children will live with a family member, after we process them into the kingship foster care.”
According to data from the agency, there are 30 children available for fostering in the southern region.
LONGER PROCESS IF CRITERIA NOT MET
Rhoomes said a total of two months is generally needed to complete the process of placing a child in foster care. However, the process can take much longer if the criteria are not met.
“Jamaicans have certain specifications. They may want a little girl age seven-10. A lot of people don’t want boys, they want children very young and if we don’t have that, we are unable to fulfil that request. Sometimes persons can’t make it to the training and do not submit all the necessary documentation, and we cannot proceed without that.”
She said while many may be deterred by myths associated with how a child will behave, the agency provides support to each foster parent, even after the child reaches the age of 18.
“People think it is going to be a difficult task because the children would have been abused, neglected and so on, but once a child has been the victim of abuse, the child will have some amount of psychological trauma, so we have to train the child and the parent.”
Rhoomes said each foster parent is assigned a case worker, clinical psychologist and even financial support, where necessary, and children 18 years and over then become part of the transitional living programme.
“I am hoping that people will be flooding our offices, our phone lines, and coming forward to say we have tugged on their heartstrings and they are willing to assist a child. Even though we are going through a pandemic, it’s still a time when we would want our children to be placed with a loving and caring family.”
To become a foster parent, one must first indicate an interest; complete an application form, with references and picture; do a medical check-up, depending on age; and complete intensive training, interviews and assessment before being matched with a child.