A two-day National Consultation on Foster Care was organised in collaboration with BREADS, UNICEF, Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD), Karnataka and Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) at Don Bosco Provincial House, Milton Street, Bengaluru, on 14 and 15 October 2019.
In the inaugural address, Dr. Antony Sebastian, Chairperson, KSCPCR said that every child wishes to have parents to take care of them. In earlier times, institutionalisation was perceived as the only resort but currently alternative forms of care are being envisioned. He opined that the scope of foster care needs to be widened so that children could remain part of a family for a longer period of time. Actionable alternatives are to be explored further. Speaking on the occasion, Fr. Jose Koyickal sdb, Vice Provincial, Salesian Province of Bengaluru, said that everyone should have a heart for children and consider the best interest of the child at all times. As family is the best option for children, the State needs to take measures in promoting the placement of children in family care. Fr. Joy Nedumparambil sdb, Executive Director, BREADS, Bengaluru, observed that there are different parameters in various states of India regarding the implementation of foster care. The deliberations of the consultation programme could contribute to the guidelines on foster care for the state of Karnataka.
Mr. Sonykutty George, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF and Fr. Koshy Thomas sdb, National Secretary, Don Bosco Young at Risk Forum, South Asia, were present for the programme. Fr. Mathew Thomas sdb, Executive Director, BOSCO Bengaluru welcomed the gathering. Over 50 NGOs, foster care practitioners from across the country and social activists participated in the programme.
Commencing the first session of the day, Mr. Sonykutty George, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF, said “It is ten years since the Guidelines on Alternative Care of children was adopted by the UN, ten years since the implementation of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) programme of the Government of India, and thirty years since the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Hence, this is the appropriate and opportune time to hold a National Consultation on Foster Care.”
Ms. Vandhana Kandhari, UNICEF, Delhi and Ms. Neha Naidu, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF, Odisha elaborated on Alternative Care- Challenges and possibilities in India. Foster parents and children under foster care, Mr. Sayed Aslam, Mr. Syed Ayub, Mr. Pradeep, Mr. Balraj and Ms. Mariamma, and SOS mothers, shared their experiences.
Ms. Arlene Manoharan, Child Protection Specialist, Bengaluru enlightened the gathering on the Formulation of Guidelines for Foster Care in Karnataka in the post-lunch session. Fr. PD Thomas, Mr. Arun Kumar Pradhan, Mr. Hemanth Kumar Das, Ms. Ravinder Kaur, Fr. Mathew Thomas, Dr. Shilpa Mehta, Ms. Laxmi Nair and Fr. Koshy Thomas shared foster care experiences from the different states of India.
The second day of the consultation began with a theatre presentation on foster care by children from BOSCO Vatsalya Bhavan and BOSCO Mane. The participants interacted with the children after the presentation. Ms. Karen Paul, Head, Training and Development, Child Healing Centre, Bengaluru spoke on Understanding Trauma of children who could be placed in Foster Care. Ms. Sindhu Naik, Member in charge of adoption scrutiny, Karnataka State Council for Child Welfare (KSCCW), Bengaluru, presented the Challenges in Successful Foster Care placement- Learnings from Adoption Disruption.
Ms. Usha Kiran KT, Development Consultant, NIMHANS, presented the psychosocial issues in children in the context of foster care. Fr. Varghese Pallipuram sdb, Director, Foster Care, BOSCO Bengaluru, elaborated on the Social reintegration challenges in foster care. The children need to well-integrated into society and that is one of the major aims of foster care. Ms. Nina Nayak, Former Chairperson, KSCPCR enumerated the financial challenges in the implementation of the foster care programme. She opined that one needs to speak to civil society regarding the responsibility of providing care for children. Mr. Rakesh Singh IAS, Principal Secretary, DWCD Karnataka, said that proactive efforts would be taken to formulate the Guidelines on Foster Care in a timely and efficient manner.
The post-lunch session consisted of group discussions and brainstorming on the implementation of foster care. The inputs, suggestions, recommendations and action plans are included in the plan for the way forward. Speaking at the concluding programme, Ms. Shailaja, Programme Director, ICPS, Bengaluru assured the participants that suggestions and deliberations emerging from the consultation would be considered while formulating Guidelines on Foster Care for Karnataka State. In the concluding remarks, Fr. George PS, sdb, former Executive Director, BOSCO Bengaluru said, “Let us join hands in providing family care to children in need of care and protection.” Fr. Prasad sdb, Director, CHILDLINE, BOSCO Bengaluru presented the highlights of the two-day programme.
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