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Study urges changes to foster-care system

Published:Thursday | February 18, 2010 | 12:00 AM

A 2009 study of the foster-care programme in Jamaica, conducted by the Office of the Children's Advocate, has recommended that a national minimum standard for foster care be established, as well as more initiatives to assist parents and to protect their charges in the programme.

The programme, which is administered by the Child Development Agency (CDA), had 1,160 children in its care as of 2007.

The study called for the Ministry of Health to establish standards which ensured that the rights of children in foster care were protected, as well as highlighted the physical infrastructure that was needed, which services were to be offered, and the expectations of the CDA and foster parents.

Child/children abused

The issue of child care in foster homes was scrutinised in the report.

Findings showed that of all the children interviewed, 29.1 per cent admitted being 'hit' by someone in their foster home. The study said that many children do not know of their rights under the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the Child Care and Protection Act and called for that ignorance of the law to be addressed.

Another recommendation called for an increase in the financial assistance given to parents in the programme to meet the financial needs of the child.

"The State must invest more financial resources in the foster-care programme in spite of the current national economic situation-tion. Financial assistance to foster parents should adequately cover all educational expenses and health-care costs," the study read.

More funding needed

Currently, parents in the pro-gramme receive $8,000 in assis-tance every two months. However, figures given by the study show that it takes $125,400 per year to raise a 15-year-old male foster child attending high school in the urban area. This figure does not include money spent on food at home, leisure and medical expenses.

The study pointed out that the research carried out revealed that fostering was a small and under-resourced child-protection pro-gramme provided by the Govern-ment. The study stated that while there was strong evidence that the initiative provided families and care for wards of the State, there were issues to be resolved. These include lack of psychological support, lack of sufficient communication between the CDA officers and the parents, and cheques not being received on a timely basis.

Findings showed that of all the children interviewed, 29.1 per cent admitted being 'hit' by someone in their foster home.