“Biological parents are the parents because they gave birth to you, but the father is the one who raises you, not the one who makes you. Help, protection, affection, your guide. If you live with parents who don’t know how to take care of you, you don’t have everything you need,” says Joel, 13. His parents have addiction problems, and he and his four siblings grew up exposed to risk and abandonment. Their rights were not covered, until the children’s services withdrew their parents’ guardianship to take them to live in a residential center and then found them a foster family. Joel and his brothers are five of the 18,892 minors in foster care —according to the most recent data from the Ministry of Social Rights—, compared to the 17,008 who were in residential care, in specialized centers.
Foster care is a care alternative for children and adolescents who are in a situation of helplessness, in order to provide them with a stable home environment when circumstances prevent them from developing their lives with their family of origin. Although it should be given priority over residential housing, it is a child protection measure that is the legislative competence of the autonomous communities, among which great inequalities are found, according to a study by the Red Cross on the evolution of this alternative in Spain that It has been published this Thursday.
Thus, the financial support that the public administration provides to families for simple foster care ranges from 120 euros per month in the Murcia region to 616 euros in the Foral Community of Navarra. In Castilla La Mancha, the monthly remuneration is 570 euros, while in Madrid it is 216. For specialized placements —those in which minors have behavioral or mental health problems—, the range starts at 393 euros in La Rioja to 1,020 in the Valencian Community. With the estimate that the cost of raising a boy or girl in Spain amounts to 672 euros per month, none of the autonomous communities is providing sufficient financial support to foster families to cover the costs of raising them, says the study .
The voice of the actors involved
“Family foster care should not be financially burdensome, it should not make a dent in the family’s economy, but it does, since families assume the child’s expenses as if they were their own, and this should not be the case,” denounces Carlos Chana, Head of the Childhood and Restoration of Family Contact Program at the Red Cross. According to the study, families believe that the aid for the costs of upbringing is insufficient, to which are added extraordinary costs to cover specific needs. In addition, they demand more information, about the history, but also about the future of the children, to accompany and give a more appropriate response and to manage bereavements and separations well.
“The first time my foster mother came and I talked about a lot of things with her and I liked her. On the second visit my two older brothers came. And then the day came to leave, I left and I never heard from that center again. I am now going to spend three years with this family (…)”, says young Joel in this report, whose opinion on foster care is very positive. In general, foster children are happy with the change that being able to have their material and emotional needs covered has brought about in their lives, especially relevant among those who have lived in residential centers, according to the study.
Chana, from the Red Cross, continues: “Having foster parents is something restorative for these children who have suffered neglect, in terms of community integration, establishing routines, creating affection. However, this modality of care must always be treated taking into account the conflict of loyalties. It has to be complementary, never supplementary”. In her opinion, “for foster children, it is very important that the preservation of their origins be taken into account and encouraged, and that they be helped and accompanied in the relationships they maintain with their families of origin.” In addition, “we must not forget about the biological children of foster families, who will have to share a room, toys and the attention of their parents,” she adds.
The foster care process
Before a child or adolescent is separated from their family of origin, the finding of a situation of helplessness is objectively verified, that is, that their rights are not covered. The first step is the creation of a family intervention plan; when this fails, foster care is sought in the extended family network (grandparents, uncles or other direct relatives). If this is not possible, an external family is sought, analyzing qualitatively and individually which is the best for each child, working on her accommodation and coupling and ensuring her follow-up and support.
There are a variety of motivations for fostering homeless children, according to the report. There is a great sensitivity towards the problems of childhood and a vocation for social justice. The testimony of Carmen, from Almería, confirms this: “We do not have biological children and I work in the women’s area, and on the top floor is the Social Services area. I lived live the withdrawal of a minor and the little eyes of that child were marked when they withdrew him. And that made me… We were thinking about adoption or foster care and we decided on foster care”.
Also that of Marta, from Almería: “We welcomed two sisters who were six and 12 years old at that time, almost four years ago, the oldest is now 16 years old. The motivation was to give them a family and well, us too, to be a family all. We couldn’t be biological parents, but we didn’t want to adopt because we realized that adoptive children date more, but foster children don’t date. Because they did not want institutionalized children, who had spent six or seven years in a juvenile center or who had visits with their relatives. We do.”
Although the percentage of suitability resolutions of the families that offer themselves as foster parents is very high (92.8%), not all families are suitable to assume this process. “Accompaniment and support is essential in this process for all parties,” says Chana. “It is essential to take care of the psychological tension with the child and with the family, who faces a double challenge: that of parenting and that of facing and trying to alleviate the consequences that the child’s exposure to abandonment has had,” she concludes. .