The Children Authority wants to regularise foster care and promote “kinship” fostering in Tobago, so as to be able to offer assistance to ensure a nurturing environment for children.
Chairman Hanif Benjamin, in an interview last Thursday at the Coco Reef Resort in Crown Point, explained foster care as temporary option for children who were not able to live with birth families due to various circumstances.
“The ultimate goal of foster care is to provide a safe, stable and nurturing home environment for children until such time that they can be reunited with their family, or until such time that other suitable long term living arrangements can be made,” said Benjamin.
“For those people who are in foster relationships, we want to regularise it. A lot of persons have a niece, a nephew; so, we are saying to people, come forward and we will help you to regularise the situation so that we can offer you the assistance you need to ensure that the child thrives.
“Tobago has kinship foster meaning family - an aunt, uncle, grandmother - and we want to encourage that rather than we have to take the child out of that environment, we want to encourage those family members who have the ability to step forward to step forward and take the child,” he added.
Manager of Registry and Investigation at the Authority, Rhonda Gregoire-Roopchan, said that circumstances of a child in a foster relationship will be examined before any action would be taken.
“The only way that we are going to receive a child into care, remove that child from a home, is because there is no other choice, we cannot mitigate the risk that the child is experiencing in his or her home.
“Our first choice would be to look for a family member, somebody who will be willing to take responsibility for that child’s upbringing and so on in the family. You have the child moving out of the family, but we look for a family-like environment - a god-mother, an aunt, a granny.
“We do the investigations to explore their circumstances and their willingness to take that child. The next step would be to look for a foster care parent,” said Gregoire-Roopchan.
Noting that the Children’s Authority was responsible for managing the foster care system in Trinidad and Tobago, she said it was responsible for recruiting, training, screening and monitoring all placements.
She said the Authority was currently engaged in ensuring all persons interested in becoming foster parents were officially brought on board.
“We would work with you, we would train you, we would screen you, we would monitor even after a placement, and so it is a long and rigorous process, but it is a process that allows us to select the very best persons with the biggest heart, as well as the support systems in place.
“Foster care also allows us to provide financial support to the child in the form of a stipend, so we also allow for some of their expenses to be covered through that stipend,” she said.