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Foster care in Sicily

An example of foster care in Sicily.
We became a foster family because we were available when the need arose for foster families following a shipwreck that took place and in which some children were involved. When the rescue ship was on its way back, our town was asked if their families that could take care of the children, so they didn’t have to go to a reception centre. We were contacted by a foster families’ association based in the town where we live, and we said we were available. The following morning they confirmed there was a child coming for us. The children arrived in the afternoon together with the other people rescued They spent the night in the port in a reception, transit centre.
The following morning, at 1pm, we went to the harbour. We went with social workers and above all with our son, and we picked up the child. I met Ali and Amara during a summer camp where I was working with another educator. We spent the summer working with disadvantaged children who lived in the town where we were working. Ali and Amara were two of these children.
We got on really well from the start. We spent time together every day, we did many things together. The project lasted seven weeks. When it was over, we kept in touch, through the phone and with video calls. Then I went to talk with the director of the care home where the boys lived. I also contacted the social workers separately of course. I met all these people separately to get an idea of the situation.
I also talked to the juvenile judge to understand the situation. The boys didn’t want to stay in the centre. They wanted to have a family that could take care of them. The centre could not give them the same attention and care they could receive in a family. The boys, especially Amara, and them….
we started writing to the court to describe the situation. In the end, the boys were transferred from Francofonte to Augusta. They stayed in Augusta for… three months. The boys stayed for three months in Augusta. But on January 10 we were appointed by the court, and on the 11th we went to pick them up. Without wasting any time. When we told them, it was really emotional. They couldn’t believe it. We went through the whole legal process. We were interviewed by the social worker. We were interviewed twice by a psychologist. We had to undergo psychological evaluation. Both individually and as a couple. A child has the right to play, to care. They have the right to the best opportunities for social inclusion.
They need someone who is proud of their little progress and victories. Someone who encourages them. The place where this happens naturally is a family. We believe placing a child in a family can speed up their social integration, the process of recovery from the trauma that they had to endure on their journey. In our experience as a foster family the first one for us, we found it important to be part of a network with social workers, who oversee the whole process, and with the juvenile court. We were positively surprised by the attention, the sensitivity displayed by the judges and all the staff at the court in dealing with these very delicate
and also dramatic cases, in some instances. We are just a foster family. We don’t know how long the fostering is going to last. We have prepared ourselves to this different way of being parents. To a separation that could come sooner than expected. - We call ourselves a ‘bridge family’. This bridge is safe, it’s well lit. It doesn’t yet have a clear direction but it’s the link between two sides of the sea. We don’t know how long this bridge is but it will lead this child from a painful, scary place to a safe place, where he will grow up free from danger. Knowing that he might leave is not a cause of regret for us.
We still consider him as our own child. He is not a guest. We care about his future. About his family. We are trying to keep together these two aspects. And we try to do our best. We want to enrich his cultural background, his range of experience. His notion of safety and self-esteem. So that he can become a man open to the world. and able to stand on his own two feet. This child has given us so much. We have given ourselves to him, but he has given us so much in return.
He’s an extraordinary child. He has shown us what it means to live.

Over the last few course steps we learnt about foster care in refugee camps in Ethiopia. In this video we have the opportunity to look at foster care in another setting. We will meet two foster care families living on the Italian island of Sicily.

The first family have fostered a very young child who lost his mother as a result of an accident at sea. We respect that the courts in Sicily take the protection of vulnerable children very seriously. Therefore, as we did not have the permission of the court, for protection reasons, we are unable to identify the child. This is why you will not see him in the video. You will hear, however, how his foster carers take their responsibility very seriously. Although they care greatly for the child, they realise their role may be temporary if there is an opportunity to safely reunify him with members of his family.

In the video you will also meet Anna Lisa and Fabio Martello and the two 13-year-old unaccompanied children, Amara and Aly, they have fostered. Amara and Aly are unrelated but met during their journey to Sicily when they became very close friends. You will also hear from Carmelo De Leo, who has been appointed by the Juvenile Court as Amara’s guardian. We will learn more about the guardianship programme on Sicily later in the course. In this video we hear how Anna Lisa, Fabio and Carmelo worked together with the local authorities so they could foster Amara and Aly.

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Caring for Children Moving Alone: Protecting Unaccompanied and Separated Children

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