Amendments to law on fostering rejected


Commenting on the initiative of the Ministry of Education to toughen the conditions for would-be foster carers, an NGO has suggested other changes to the law, to provide a system of mentoring for such families. Psychologists think this would help to prevent crises occurring.

The Minister of Education, Olga Vasileva, refused to support the new legislation, which would have made the requirements for would-be foster families much tougher. On 20 August she said she was categorically against limiting foster families to three children. She said the new draft law had not been cleared with her. The newspaper Kommersantreported that experts deemed the move to have been likely to cause serious reputational damage. The draft bill on changes to certain legislation on protection of children’s rights was signed by a Deputy Minister of Education, Tatiana Sinyungina on 14 August, and then sent to the regions for comments. It contained much tougher requirements for parents wishing to care for a child from a children’s home or boarding school than the previous legislation. It stated that including the family’s own children there should not be more than three children in the family; and that before being allowed to foster, the parents should undergo psychological tests; and that anyone with HIV would be forbidden by law from fostering.

Later, according to Interfax, the Ministry proposed instead that courts should decide in specific cases whether or not people with HIV or Hepatitis C should adopt or foster a child. Currently the Family Code defines what kind of people should be allowed to adopt. It excludes those who do not qualify for health reasons. The government decides which illnesses result in a ban. As a result a court can decide that if someone is confirmed as having HIV or Hepatitis C, they may not adopt, despite the fact that both these conditions are treatable.

An expert’s view:

“The decision whether a child should go to a particular family should in my opinion be negative if there are serious psychological concerns about either the foster parents or children in the family. For example, if the potential parent’s motivation is not sufficiently strong or serious. They might feel sorry for the child, or think that having raised their own they could easily raise someone else’s, or because others are fostering, so they will as well, and so on. Or when other members of the family do not support the idea, which occurs quite often at the School for Adoptive or Foster Parents”, said psychologist Lyubov Gorbunova, Chairman of the Council of the public organisation Hand in Hand in Shegarsk district of Tomsk Region. She is an expert in the charity for the Prevention of Social Orphans. “If there is already a child in the family, it is essential for the foster parents to undergo thorough psychological testing to prevent serious crises or milder forms of relationship breakdown from occurring.”

This expert considers that psychological testing of all family members is the best approach. This should not be a formal procedure or box-ticking exercise. After testing, there should be a process of mentoring for the family, to provide psychological help, family therapy, information, training and other assistance.

She thinks that in Russia what is needed above all is a system of training of specialists in mentoring such families, to produce state-attested trainers who are supervised to prevent burn-out.

Gorbunova said that what is needed is a four-level support system for families taking in children, and adoption of innovative practice all over the country. And the families should receive better financial benefits, she concluded.

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