The two-month-long vacation foster care (VFC) programme of the Ernakulam District Child Protection Unit (DCPU) has evoked greater interest with 13 families taking home as many children during the summer season.
Out of the 15 applications received from prospective foster parents, 13 were selected based on home study conducted by inquiry officers of the DCPU. Children aged between eight and 15 years were selected from various childcare homes for the programme.
“There was a definite rise in interest for VFC during this year considering that only a couple of families had taken home children under the programme last year,” said Sini K.S., District Child Protection Officer.
One of the children, however, was returned by the family concerned shortly after being assigned under VFC following adjustment problems on the part of the child.
“We mostly selected children who have remained unclaimed by their families for long periods. And, they were predominantly assigned to childless married couple. In a few cases, parents with single child were also assigned children out of their own wards’ longing for a sibling. Both the children and foster parents were given counselling, while the caretakers of the children concerned also gave a character sketch of the children to the foster parents concerned,” said Staicy. M. Manjooran, protection officer, non-institutional care, DCPU.
Even after sending the children to the homes of foster parents, the inquiry officers follow up the situation of the children. In cases where the children find it impossible to adjust to the new surroundings, they are immediately called back.
However, there are instances where foster parents and children develop a deep emotional bond as in the case of a 10-year-old boy and the family of Manitha Nair, a professor at Amrita School of Nanosciences, during this summer.
“He had his first ever flight journey when we took him on a trip to the northeast. To help him develop a life skill, he was given swimming lessons for two hours through the vacation at the end of which he swam across the Periyar,” said Ms. Nair, a mother of two who has been participating in VFC for the past four years.
Hence, it was a painful experience for both parties, when it was time to bid goodbye.
All children were returned to their respective care homes ahead of school reopening. “We will collect feedback from the children about their experience with their foster parents in the days to come,” said Ms. Manjooran.