By Dr. John DeGarmo
As there are differences in foster care services throughout the United States, it comes as no surprise then that there are also vast and wide differences in the way nations around the world implement their foster care services and agencies. In truth, the term “foster care” is one that has tremendous differences in various areas of the world. In many industrialized nations, foster care is commonly referred to a temporary placement, made by a state child welfare agency, with a family. For many third world and developing nations, the term “foster care” is one that refers to something that is quite different than the system established in industrialized nations. In many developing nations across the globe, poor economic situations leave little financial assistance for government assistance. Lack of available health care, adoption organizations and governmental aid for families and children are the reality.
Throughout much of Africa, the practice of placing underprivileged children into other homes is an old tradition, and not an uncommon one. As educational opportunities increase in many African nations, children are also being “fostered out” to other families, families that are closer large cities where schools are more readily available. The poor economic environment in Africa has severely affected the fostering system. The high costs of installing an effective foster care system prohibit many African countries from developing it.
For the millions of orphan children in Asian countries, the foster care system offers little hope. Fortunately, many children whose parents have died find outside parental care with extended family members, in a form of kinship living arrangement, a type of family preservation service. For some Asian nations, this is the only option that is supported by the government. As a result, millions of children who have no living extended family members find themselves without a home. More often than not, Asian governments are quick to place children into orphanages, which are overcrowded and understaffed, with children living in poor conditions.
Japan’s foster care system is one that is seldom used. For those children who fall outside the cultural traditions of the nation, it is often difficult for them to find a home that is welcoming. Japan’s culture is one that is resistant to foster children. Another struggle that foster children face in Japan is the lack of aftercare provisions. For those children who have aged out of the foster care system, they have little to no support, and often are completely on their own.
European countries are generally considered to have the most advanced foster care systems available. However, there are distinct differences across the continent. In the Scandinavian nations, the system is perhaps the most efficient and advanced. The governments of these nations are very involved in the promotion of foster care, and provide sufficient funds, staff and training. Western European nations have seen a reduction of government involvement in foster care, though it is still a highly developed child welfare system. Central and Eastern European nations has the weakest foster care system and the fewest amount of foster homes on the continent, but the greatest need.
Efforts are under way to bring about social change in a global foster care system. Organizations, such as the International Foster Care Organization (IFCO), are working hard to bring about a more unified way to support foster children around the world. Yet, there is much work to be done, as the foster care system is one that is drastically uneven in all four corners of the globe. All children, regardless of where they are born, have the right to a loving home, a supportive family and a stable environment. An improved global foster care system will help to make that dream a reality for millions of children.
Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 11 years, and he and his wife have had more than 40 children come through their home. He is a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system, and travels around the nation delivering passionate, dynamic, energetic and informative presentations. Dr. DeGarmo is the author of "Fostering Love: One Foster Parent’s Story," and the new training book "The Foster Parenting Manual: A Practical Guide to Creating a Loving, Safe and Stable Home." He also writes for a number of publications and newsletters, both in the United States and overseas. Dr. DeGarmo can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at http://drjohndegarmofostercare.weebly.com.