KOZHIKODE: “I have been waiting for the whole year for April to come so that I could reunite with my foster parents and two siblings. In the last two years, I had a lovely summer vacation with them. This time too, they had made all arrangements for swimming training and athletic practice during the two-month vacation, but Covid-19 has dashed all my hopes,” says a disappointed 13-year-old boy at Government Children’s Home in Thrissur.
He is eagerly scanning through Covid-19 news to check when the lockdown will be withdrawn. Like him, his foster parents are also grief personified. The family had submitted an application before the district child protection unit (DCPO) for getting the boy under the foster care programme.
A childless teacher couple at Valanchery is calling up everyday at DCPO to know when they should come to receive the seven-year old girl of the care home whom they used to take home every vacation. “It is heart wrenching. We are receiving many calls from foster parents asking us when they should come to take their child home,” says Shalini S, Child Protection Officer (Non-Institutional Care) in Thrissur.
When Covid-19 struck, the process of identifying children and scrutinising applications for the vacation foster care programme had just started in all districts. As many as 194 children were identified for the foster care programme. Now, all activities have ceased and the programme has been shelved because of the lockdown.
“The list of children is incomplete as the process had just started when the outbreak was reported. We have made home study in a few cases. Regular foster parents and children were eagerly waiting for the reunion,” says Anushree M S, Child Protection Officer (Non-Institutional Care) in Kozhikode. In many cases, the vacation foster care programme will be extended to a longer period facilitating the much-needed family ambience for the children at the care homes. “A girl at the home here used to come and ask repeatedly why her foster parents had not come this time,” says Anushree.
According to Shuhaib, Child Protection Officer (Non-Institutional Care) in Kasaragod, they had put out an advertisement inviting applications for foster care. “The advertisement needs to be given two or three times to elicit good response. But before that, the lockdown came. So far, we have received just two applications, while 14 children have been identified for foster care,” Shuhaib says. As of now, 313 children are continuing in their foster care homes in the state under long-term care and kinship programme.
Number of kids identified for foster care