Preventing separation: emergency and respite foster care
Partnership for Every Child (P4EC) has worked in the field of family separation for over 20 years and has recently focused on developing emergency and respite foster care as preventative measures to support children and families in crisis. Both these forms of care involve providing short-term foster placements where a child can be cared for while their family of origin receives support to address their problems. In the case of emergency care this is in response to an immediate crisis, and in respite care it is more a means to relieve the long-term pressure on parents of children with disabilities by providing them with short breaks.
Here at P4EC we deal with the prevention of social orphanhood and the development of innovative social services including professional parenting (foster care).
Historically, there were families in Russia that cared for children of their relatives and others, from Tsarist times. In those times, in accordance with the legislation of Russia, if a family took an orphan into care they received a benefit for child maintenance. They resembled a foster family although it was called differently and it was quite a normal practice in small towns and villages.
With these beginnings, formal foster care could have been developed in Russia earlier, but wider events led to the creation of children’s orphanages. Only now are we returning to a ‘normal’ situation where children stay with and are cared for by relatives, friends, neighbours and other people who care.
P4EC tackles the prevention of social orphanhood and has developed services to support the biological family. For 20 years we have worked with families who are facing crisis for different reasons which separate children from parents. We realised that we lack services that help to keep a child in their family. We have therefore developed a service called “preventative separation”, a form of “short term crisis placement.” This involves placing children with professional foster carers if something is happening in the biological family and the parents cannot temporarily provide care for a child.
When a mother leaves a child (in an institution) after giving birth, it is not necessarily the case that she does not want the child. Sometimes it is the case that a mum cannot look after a child as she has nowhere to take him or her. We have many cases like that. We reintegrate children back in the family later, so for a month, or a month and a half, a child is placed with the professional foster family and then a child can return home.
I am very happy to be a part of Family for Every Child because it provides great opportunities – such as our recent study trip to London (LINK) to share knowledge, create training programmes, opportunities to work on educational programmes and joint research as well as increase awareness of specialists worldwide.
I sincerely hope that things will change for the better in Russia. I think that in ten years’ time there will be more respect for the child and an understanding of children’s rights. Very often things can take place; children can be placed with foster families or institutions without prior communication or an explanation of what is going on. I would like children to be informed, consulted and to enjoy more respect. I think this will dramatically change the situation.