What is Foster Care?
Foster care provides a temporary family setting and care to children under 18 years of age whose parents cannot adequately take care of them so that they may continue to enjoy family life until they are able to reach “permanency”, be it by re-uniting with their birth family, joining an adoptive family or living independently. The benefit of a family setting in foster care is known to lead to better outcomes for children than those living in residential institutions.
Why do children need fostering?
Children need foster care for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes, it is for reasons such as family domestic violence, parental drug use, or mental illness, all which impact a family’s capacity to care for their child. Some of the children’s cases sadly include a history of abuse or neglect. Some foster children may be in care because they have special needs, a disability or emotional problems that require more care and attention than their own families can provide. Foster children are of different ages, from newborn to 18 years old, and from all backgrounds. They all have a common need for a suitable home for them to thrive in whilst they are in care, and until they achieve their permanency plan. Fostering provides these children with a safe home and a loving supportive environment whilst they are separated from their permanent family.
What are the Mother’s Choice’s foster care programs?
Mother’s Choice runs two foster care programs:
Ordinary Foster Care (OFC)
This is a program designed, operated and largely funded by the Social Welfare Department (SWD). Families in OFC receive a monthly allowance as financial assistance from the SWD to cover the child’s expenses. Mother’s Choice supports up to 65 families at any given time in caring for children in placements which can usually last several years. These are critical services to provide a loving home for children who may need longer term care whilst they wait to be reunited with their families or adoption. The children may be enrolled in school whilst they living with their foster family and may have regular leave on the weekends or during holidays to see their parents or other family members.
Cases are referred to Mother’s Choice as one of 11 OFC agencies in Hong Kong. Each agency provides such placement services.
In addition to OFC, Mother’s Choice has been running an innovative foster care program called “Project Bridge” since 2016. Like OFC, this program is focused on giving safe, loving, temporary care for children, whilst they wait to rejoin their birth family or be adopted. The objectives of the program are to model a different, integrated early intervention approach and international best practices in foster care, resulting in children spending a shorter amount of time in care and achieving permanency more quickly.
Project Bridge is centered on four pillars and allow us to model best practices in the local context of Hong Kong:
- Project Bridge recruits, trains, and supports highly motivated volunteer families (with no financial incentives) to provide quality temporary care to children in need.
- A very individualized process matches foster families with their unique strengths to children in need of placement.
- Foster families receive specialized training, are paired with a buddy partner family, and are connected to a community of resources and other foster families. This in turn ensures higher retention and placement stability.
- Children receive early intervention screening and services to help improve their wellbeing whilst in care, to enable them to reach their fullest potential, increasing their likelihood of leaving residential care in a shorter time-frame.
Project Bridge inspires communities to care for families around them, to support vulnerable children and families, leading to quality placements so that children can join a permanent family sooner.
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