RICF's 'A Family for me' foster care project - an update by Suzie Marsden
In RICF’s foster care project we are currently supporting nine children (five girls and four boys) with eight foster carers in and around Bucharest. The youngest is five years old and the oldest is 17. RICF’s board is regularly updated on progress and life events for these children. We aim for them to be fully integrated into their schools and communities, and the teenagers are also invited to be part of our independent living skills group run at the RICF HQ on a monthly basis. Where biological family members are known, and contact is deemed to be in the children's best interests, our foster carers arrange contact, liaising with the Romanian child protection authorities.
It was great fun to visit these two young girls who are from completely different families and backgrounds but thriving together in a joint foster placement with Rodica. When we visited in April, we were struck by how peaceful the family home was, and we were impressed to see their very neat writing in their maths homework books! Our children had great fun introducing the girls to the game Dobble and we spent some time chatting and playing together.
Congratulations to both girls for achieving first prize in their school classes at the end of the school year. I remember their foster carer telling me when we visited in April that they would always get in from school and get their school workbooks out and start doing their homework without even being reminded, so this result is a testimony to their hard work and dedication.
Rodica lives some way outside Bucharest but manages to attend RICF's monthly support meeting for our foster carers. The foster carers’ monthly meeting provides an opportunity for foster carers to receive training, share stories about what is working and what is not working with the different aged children they care for, and to offer each other moral support and encouragement. They also like to take the opportunity to encourage each other in their faith, often praying for each other.
There are a couple of exciting developments in our foster care programme:
Firstly, we are applying to be an accredited trainer for people wishing to become foster carers, whether in the state or NGO sector, and we are grateful to the UK Charity Substitute Families for Abandoned Children (SFAC) for their support as we develop the training materials. For some years we have already been involved, along with our UK partner SFAC (Substitute Families for Abandoned Children), in delivering training to state-employed foster carers and social workers in Bucharest.
Secondly, we are being sponsored this year to open up additional places for the foster carers for an additional 5 children to be part of our monthly support meetings and to receive additional training and support to help them provide the best possible environment for the children in their care. The funding for this is is being provided by the US charity Remember Nhu, and we are very grateful for their support. We aim to equip foster carers to best nurture and protect the young people in their care, building hope, self esteem and the ability to set boundaries and make positive choices, in preparation for independent living.
Historically RICF has set up, funded and overseen foster care placements at a time when the Romanian child protection authorities were still committed to housing children in institutions, because we believe that children belong in loving families. Now that the Romanian government is using foster care rather than group homes or orphanages to provide care for abandoned or otherwise at risk children we no longer seek to start new fully funded placements, but are committed to supporting our existing placements through to completion, usually adulthood, and to helping provide additional training and support for government-funded placements. It has been exciting over the time we have been working in Romania to see the government make this step forwards as children thrive so well when placed in supportive, well-trained and loving families.