By Dagnachew Tesfaye, Founder and Partner at DMLO
The Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs (MoWCYA) has come out with a registered directive Directive No 48/2020 namely Directive on Foster Family and Domestic Adoption Services. In this brief article, an attempt shall be made to see what foster care child support looks like only. Domestic adoption process and procedure shall be dealt in another article.
The preamble says foster care is introduced in this directive to fulfill the promise of the government. The government promised to support vulnerable children locally. Foster care is one of the local support programs. The directive declares that it generates its powers from the ratified Child Right Convention and African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Thus, before indulging into the details of the Directive, it is important to see the definitions given to foster family care, who a vulnerable child is and who are the institutions to implement the foster care directives.
The scope of the Directive is to apply on appropriate Federal Government institutions and charity organizations authorize to perform foster and adoption services as per the Federal Government. Based on this directive, regions and city administration may prepare their own directive taking in to account their context.
‘Foster family Care’ is one of alternative to providing support and care to children lost their family or vulnerable children. It is a ‘temporary alternative program’. Foster family care can be either for short or long period. The responsibility of the foster family shall be to properly raise the foster child by fulfilling the basic necessity. The support and care cover the psychological and physical health of the child. These responsibility must be completed until the child is re-unified with their biological parents or placed to other permanent alternative program.
‘Vulnerable Child’ is a child whose survival and development is jeopardize by certain circumstances and therefore in need of alternative care services. Those includes: a. Abandoned Children; b. Single or double orphan; c. Non-orphan whose parents are unable to support the child due to illness, physical disability and mental impairment; d. Street children; e. Children living in orphanage; f. Abandon children due to their biological parents displacement; g. Children who are not getting support from their biological parents due to economical deprivation; and h. Children neglected by their biological parents.
‘Institution’ means a government or charity organizations which have an authority and license from federal government to perform domestic adoption and foster care service.
Registration and Eligibility
The first thing to do is registration. Registration at the institution as an interested foster family. The institutions shall have responsibility to prepare registration form to be filled by potential families. The registration must also include the foster family needs, including age, gender, health status and other conditions of the child.
The registered foster care family should fulfill eligibility requirements. The registered foster family must have Ethiopian nationality and solely reside in Ethiopia permanently. They should be above 25 years of age. Unless and otherwise there is no option, the child must only be given to married persons. Priority shall be given to a family who reside in the area where the foster child resides. Family must duly approve their willingness by written consent to foster the child. Family shall have sufficient economical capacity to raise the child. Foster family should be a person who has not convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction for offenses related children. Family must have medical certificate that enables them to raises the child.
After making sure that the eligibility requirements are fulfilled, before the concerned authority placed the child to foster family, a home study shall be done. The concerned organ shall assess the foster family by attending home visits to acknowledge their psycho-social and economic conditions in accordance with the check list.
Evidences Concerning the Foster Family
The foster family should produce Ethiopian nationality identification card, birth certificate, medical certificate, police clearance certificate, marriage certificate and income evidences. Medical certificate should confirms they are completely free from transferable or uncured deceased so as to confirm their health capability to properly raise child.
Evidences Concerning the Child
Once the status of the foster family is assessed and completed, then the status of the child shall follow. General information of the child namely gender, age, language, religion (for a child capable of expressing himself/herself), place of birth and other related information, residential address of the child, birth certificate of the child, family status of the child (abandon, single or double orphan) and other related status shall be organized. The child physical, mental, psychological and health status, educational status of a child, economical status of a child, (for example acquiring property through inherits or grant) shall also be identified. If the child is found abandoned, name and address of the person who found the child, date, place and other related information’s must be organized.
Training to the foster family shall be given by the government organ or the institution. Such training mainly consists of proper upbringing and securing children right and other related subjects.
Matching, Attachment and Bonding
The next step is matching. After organizing the evidences of both the foster family and the child, the INSTITUTION shall made matching the child with suitable family.
Then creating attachment and bonding shall follow. Matching and bonding involves introducing physically the child with the foster family, the biological children of the foster family with the child, taking the child to the village of the foster family so as to allow him to be adapt with the community shall be done.
Foster Care Agreement
Once the bonding activity is carried out, legally binding agreement shall be made between the institution and the foster family. If an agreement is signed between the charity institution and the foster family, the concerned governmental institution shall also sign as a witness. After the agreement is concluded, in order to protect economic and social rights of the child, the foster family may present its petition of guardianship to the competent court of law.
Support and Follow up
After the placement is done, the concerned institution shall provide continuous support and follow up to ensure the right and welfare of the child is reasonably maintained.
Transition of foster care service to other alternatives may be implemented. If the biological parents exist while the child is given to the foster family and if the biological parents are capable of raising their child, reunification with biological parents shall be performed by foster care institution.
Termination of Agreement
If the foster family commit child labor, physical or psychological violence, sexual harassment, or any exploitation has been committed by a family member or by others, then if such incidents confirmed by the concerned institution, without the prejudice of legal liability, the contract will be terminated.
To sum up, the MoWCYA has come out for the first time with binding details of foster care implementation procedure. From the registration of interested foster family to required assessments and documents, to signing a foster care contract agreement has been stated under Directive 48/2020. It is a commendable act in the right direction. Publicly announcing of the Directive and effectively implementing the Directive for the benefit of the vulnerable children are equally important steps.
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