RICF's family placement project is called 'O Familie pentru mine' or 'A Family for me'. It was set up in 2001, and aims to place abandoned children back with a member of their own biological family, or where this is not possible, with a dedicated, specially trained, Romanian foster family. The project is co-ordinated by qualified social workers, who supervise the preparation of children and families for placements, and follow up once children have been placed.
The Process of Family Placement
As soon as we begin to work with each child our social workers start the job of tracing his or her family, which involves travelling to the child's home town, often several hundred miles away. Once the family is found, the social workers discuss the current family situation, the reason why the child was abandoned and the possibility of eventual reintegration within the extended family. If problems in the child's family seem insurmountable or unlikely to be resolved within a year or so, we will seek to place them with a foster family.
The 'Maternal Assistant'
According to Romanian law, fostering is done by a named 'maternal assistant' who is paid a monthly salary. RICF selects potential maternal assistants according to strict criteria, which stipulate personal character traits and minimum living requirements which must be available for the child placed. We aim to offer as normal a family environment as possible. The designated 'maternal assistant' will be paid full time, and must have no other employment. This person will be required to participate in an intensive training course and agree to collaborate with our social workers in ensuring the success of each placement. All family members, including any children that the foster family may already have, must be in agreement with the placement, and part of the social workers' task is to prepare the whole family for the placement.
The Romanian government also employs maternal assistants, but due to limited resources and training, there are not enough maternal assistants for each of the many abandoned and orphaned children to be placed. It can be particularly difficult to find a family willing to take the challenge of accepting an older abandoned child into their home, especially if the child has spent time on the streets or in other particularly difficult circumstances. We aim not only to rehabilitate such children and place them back into families, but also to cater for their long-term emotional and spiritual welfare. For this reason, we are especially keen to ensure that foster families take on children through love rather than out of a desire for financial gain.
Once accepted into our project, children will be cared for until they can provide for themselves, and after this we hope to maintain a family relationship with those we have cared for. Where family placement has been successful, we hope that much of the ongoing support would be provided to the young person through the family with whom he or she had been placed. We endeavour to continue to provide advice and friendship to all those who have been part of our project.