by Curlan Campbell
- 12-month Foster Carer Recruitment Drive launched
- Over 200 children already in state alternative care
- Foster care parents must not use corporal punishment to discipline
Cultural norms and traditional beliefs surrounding corporal punishment have proved to be a significant barrier preventing people in Grenada from engaging in foster care.
The growing problem of children in need of alternative foster care in Grenada continues to challenge the government, policymakers, and social work agencies. The Child Protection Authority (CPA), the statutory body mandated by law to respond and report cases of child abuse and neglect in Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique, has embarked on a Foster Care Recruitment drive in response to the growing number of children in State alternative foster care.
The need for foster carers is urgent. There are over 200 children already in foster care, many of whom come from dysfunctional homes and have experienced abuse, neglect, and other forms of maltreatment.
The Authority is launching a 12-month Foster Carer Recruitment Drive to help enlist families to provide loving homes for children in need. Adoption is typically a more permanent, long-term solution where new caregivers have full legal parental responsibility. Foster care is usually a temporary placement of a child in the care of an adult who cares for that child until such time deemed fit by the local authority to reunite that child with their biological parent. However, the drive to encourage foster care will prove to be a challenge as the idea of foster care and adoption is not culturally popular among Grenadians for several reasons. One issue surrounds the method of correcting bad behaviour among children using corporal punishment, which goes against the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
According to the CPA, based on feedback, Grenadians are not enthusiastic about providing foster care, since one requirement is that foster care parents must adhere to the strict rule prohibiting the use of corporal punishment as instilling discipline.
“We have to take into consideration that the children we have in care come with behavioural issues. Some are severe, and some of the feedback we get from people is that they can’t take care of their own, much less to take care of other people’s children with all the external baggage. Also, based on the laws of UNICEF which CPA is a part of, we have a no corporal punishment mandate. So in terms of beating, we do not sanction that at all, and based on our culture in Grenada, we would not stand for that, so people will put up a block”, said Adoption Officer Louanna Joseph John.
Although there is a foster care allowance that goes directly to the children, another major barrier to foster care is the lack of financial incentive to encourage foster carers. “There is a $500 foster care allowance that goes directly to the children. If it’s kinship or blood related then it is $300, but the foster carers are not being paid,” she said.
Despite this obvious hurdle, the CPA is optimistic that its campaign drive will yield results. On Friday, the Foster Care Recruitment Drive started in front of Foodland Supermarket on Kirani James Boulevard.
In cases of abuse or neglect, CPA may remove children from their parents while they receive counselling support, and will attempt to place them with another family that meets the standards of being able to provide an adequate environment for raising the child.
There are several requirements to qualify as a foster carer. “You have to be between the ages of 21 and 70; and also, there are several background checks that have to be completed before you can be an approved foster carer, for example, a police record. Also, we would have to do community checks, and if there are other adults in the home we would also have to do background and community checks on those people as well,” Joseph John said.
Under the theme “You Can Foster”, plans are in place to sensitise and engage various communities in the coming weeks through this Foster Care Recruitment Drive, which would include radio and television appearance by the CPA, walkabouts, and community forums.