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Foster care (Part 1)

Foster care video by Rebecca Nhep

In this video Dr Ian Milligan, International Project Advisor at CELCIS in the University of Strathclyde, asks care specialist, Rebecca Nhep, about her experience working on a foster care programme in Cambodia.

Rebecca holds a Master’s Degree in International Development, and a Graduate Certificate in Missiology and Anthropology. She is the Senior Technical Advisor for Better Care Network. Previous to this role she was joint Chief Executive Officer and Head of International Programs at ACC International, and ran the ACCI Kinnected program which focuses on upholding children’s right to a family through deinstitutionalisation, family based care and family preservation.

Foster care is described in the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children as:

‘situations where children are placed by a competent authority for the purpose of alternative care in the domestic environment of a family other than the children’s own family that has been selected, qualified, approved and supervised for providing such care’.

We should note, however, in reality, in many different country settings, the term “foster care” does not always match this definition but is being used to denote many different forms of family-based and community-based care including informal care with relatives and care in small group homes.

Rebecca tells us about the steps that must be taken if foster care is to work effectively and safely including a rigorous process of selection and training of foster carers, thoughtful preparation and support of children who are to be fostered and, very careful matching of children and prospective carers. She reflects on how a foster care service also requires on-going review, support and guidance for foster carers and foster children once the placement has been arranged. We will also understand how important it is to have effective legislative and a policy framework with standards and regulations for foster care.

Whilst we reflect on Rebecca’s experience we should be mindful of any cultural setting and how this can affect whether and, how, foster care is developed. In addition, we should consider messages from research alerting us to the possible poor consequences for children when there is insufficient investment in foster care. This lack of investment might not only lead to the breakdown of unsuitable placements but, most concerning, is the possibility of endangering children if placed in unsafe and unmonitored care.

Rebecca also reminds us of the need to create different forms of foster care i.e. carers able to take care of babies, react to an emergency placement or, care for older children.

Please see pages 19 and 20 of the publication ‘Fostering better care: improving foster care provision around the world’ prepared by the NGO EveryChild for further ideas about different forms of foster care.

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Getting Care Right for All Children: Implementing the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children

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