Turkey to adopt a new childcare system centred on foster families
The government is aiming to transform the child care system for vulnerable children with an emphasis on foster families to replace state boarding houses.
By Menekse Tokyay for SES Türkiye -- 18/09/12
The Ministry of Family and Social Policy is looking to transfer an increasing number of vulnerable children from state institutions to foster families by the end of 2014.
Ayfer Dogan (second from right) and her husband have two sons, but also are foster parents for three girls. Dogan is the president of Denizli Foster Families Association. [SES Türkiye]
Nearly 14,000 children are cared for by public boarding houses, but only around 1,300 are under the care of foster families. The ministry is pushing for a system that will transfer administration and costs from state institutions, which are plagued by a series of child abuse scandals, to much more cost-efficient foster families that can provide a caring environment to children.
"As a first step, we are thinking that the best environment where those children will be cared for is their biological family. For that reason, we are working on some models to strengthen those families and to increase their problem solving capacities," Abdulkadir Kaya, the head of Childhood Services at the Ministry of Family and Social Policies said at a workshop held by the AKP's Women's Branch on September 10th in Ankara.
"However, if it doesn't work due to specific circumstances, we are either promoting child adoption or foster families," Kaya said, adding that there are currently at least 8 million families in Turkey with qualifications to become foster families.
Unlike adoptive parents, foster parents are paid by the state to care for children and their responsibility for the child can be terminated at any time.
According to the plan, to prevent cases of child abuse, state institutions would focus on smaller units, families, which are easier to supervise with frequent visits by social workers. The volunteer foster families would also be trained in a certificate programme and monthly payments to foster families would be increased.
Among vulnerable children, those who are delinquent would go through a 3-4 month rehabilitation programme, after which they would be delivered to more experienced foster families. The goal is to develop support mechanisms for all stakeholders to discourage the families from sending their charges back to state institutions.
"Accordingly, the system will be based on professional pillars to make those families feel socially responsible for those children both in emotional and pedagogical way," Professor Turkan Dagoglu, AK Party deputy and president of parliament's Child Rights Monitoring Commission, told SES Türkiye.
Dagoglu added that with only 10 percent of vulnerable children in foster families Turkey is far behind the European average of 75 percent.
One reason for the low interest in foster care is the lack of information and incentives, as well as unanswered concerns related to socio-cultural and religious issues.
To overcome such barriers, the ministry trained 274 personnel and is planning to launch a media campaign this month. A specific call centre will also be designed within the ministry while other institutions, like the Directorate of Religious Affairs, will encourage foster care.
Experts emphasise that in order to establish a new foster system, the ministry should collaborate much more closely with civil society to act as an intermediary between people and the state. In this case, it would be possible to prevent "risky" foster families who are unable to take care of the children and further jeopardise the future of the child.
"Civil society organisations help state institutions to develop a common vision and understanding among foster families," Ayfer Dogan, the president of Denizli Foster Families Association and a foster mother of three girls with two biological sons, told SES Türkiye.
"Sharing experiences and empathy among foster families are the most effective way to promote this mechanism. As a result, foster families will become the biggest promoters of a foster care system."