Orphans into foster families in Thailand

by Care for Children
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Orphans into foster families in Thailand
Earlier this month in the Guardian, the vital role of “Life Story” Work was highlighted and championed in an article you can read here. Tim Taylor, Care for Children Group Training Manager, shares why Life Story work is so important to Care for Children’s model, how it can positively impact the lives of looked-after children, and how you could explore its benefits if you care for foster or adopted children.

 

What is “Life Story” work?
Every child or young person is unique with a “life story” belonging to them.
However, children and young people who are placed in foster-care care or adopted may have little understanding of why they don’t live with their birth parents, the reasons for them entering care, and events that took place in their early lives. This can have a negative impact on their emotional wellbeing and self-esteem.
Conversely, ‘Life Story’ work can help children in care begin to understand and accept their personal history, helping to create a secure base to explore their past, present and future.
‘Life Story’ work at Care for Children
When a child moves from an institution to a foster family, their journey has often not been straightforward. At Care for Children, we place a high priority on training foster carers to develop a secure base for the children in their care. We incorporate ‘Life Story’ work into all of our training programmes in Thailand as one of the ways to do this. We train social workers, or family placement workers, to be able to develop life story books, which can be a complex and sensitive task. It’s important to capture a child’s journey, but the priority is always to protect the child, helping them to develop a more secure sense of their identity. Family Placement workers are then empowered to work with foster parents to help them maximise the impact of the work with their children. Across Thailand, this model is being used to help young children understand their history, developing a better sense of who they are and how their story might impact their future.
Throughout the training program, the sessions on “life- story” work are always among the most fruitful and eye-opening. It always gives us, and trainees, a real insight into how a vulnerable child’s journey is understood and treated, and enables us to make huge steps forward in our work.
We want children to flourish in their new families, so everything we can do to equip foster families to provide the best long-term care for children is at the heart of our work.
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In many countries, children growing up in orphanages is still the norm. We're committed to training orphanage staff to become family placement workers, whereby they are able to move children out of the orphanage and into local foster families. 

In Thailand, government facilities called Child and Family Shelters play an important role in the care of vulnerable children. The Shelters act as ‘gatekeepers’ – the screening process which decides whether a child needs to be taken into care and which care option is most suitable for them. As the first point of contact between government care professionals and the children, the Shelters offer a vital service to children in their most vulnerable moment. 

There are 76 Child and Family Shelters located across Thailand. Staff at the Shelters play an important role in deciding the best method of care for a child moving forwards, liaising with all the key stakeholders to give the children the best care moving forwards. 

Unfortunately, the options that Shelters offer for children are limited. Currently, there are few alternative care options for children so staff often refer children to the nearest orphanage as a default. This puts a major strain on orphanages, as well as not always being in the best interest of the child. 

Last year, we identified these Shelters as a key opportunity to further influence child welfare in Thailand, and play an important role in transitioning the system to place foster care at its heart. While continuing to train orphanages, we began exploring how best to work alongside the Shelters to enable fewer children to enter into orphanages in the first place. 

If foster care is seen as a positive and viable alternative to institutions, then fewer children would have to experience the dangers and challenges of entering an orphanage. So in the last few months we've begun training staff at the Shelters in how to conduct foster care assessments.

"Sometimes we get cases of children to our shelter, and we will be able to screen the case and see if they have someone who is able to take care of them. Perhaps the parents are in prison, or they might have passed away. If our social worker comes across a case like this, they will be able to place these children in foster care. If we can care for these children in foster families, then the children will be able to develop and be a valued part of society."

Mrs Rachaya Hantrakul, Head of the Child and Family Shelter in Chiang Mai.

Shelters provide a vital service for families and children in moments when they're desperate for support, so we're proud to work alongside them. Thanks to your incredible support, we are able to provide ongoing training and support to these Shelters to ensure more children than ever are placed into loving families, where they can be loved and nurtured. 

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Khon Kaen, northern Thailand
Khon Kaen, northern Thailand

In this update, we'll introduce Jane Arnott, our Country Manager in Thailand, and share an incredible story of how our work is making long-term sustainable impact for communities across rural Thailand.

Jane has spent over 20 years in Thailand working alongside orphaned and abandoned children. As a foster parent herself, she has cared for 64 children in her own home. She's been part of the Care for Children team in Thailand since 2015, helping with the national roll-out of the project across the country. 

In Thailand, the impact of foster care as a positive alternative to institutional care has radically changed the way that vulnerable children are being cared for. Jane shares a story from a recent visit to an orphanage (known locally as a child welfare home) of a radical new approach to supporting foster families.

In April of 2018, we started delivering training to the Northeast Child Welfare Protection Institution in Khon Kaen. It's one of the nine child welfare homes across the country which the government asked us to train last year, and has rapidly developed an exciting foster care programme. There are now ten foster families who currently care for eleven different children of all ages.

The Director of the home, Prapai Khamvut, has always been a great advocate for foster care and she knows how much the children long to be part of a family. 

This child welfare home for older boys is supporting foster families in several rural communities, where agriculture is the mainstay of the community. Each family benefits from monthly visits from family placement workers, trained by Care for Children, ensuring every foster child receives the best possible care. The foster care system creates opportunity to provide holistic support to foster families as well as the fostered children, and Prapai and the home identified a unique way of doing this. 

There are over 5,000 children still living in government-run orphanages. It's a huge number, but the solution starts with small, innovative ideas to ensure each child can be raised in their own foster family. 

With this in mind, the child welfare home have been rearing cows and pigs and decided to donate them to the foster families. This provides an amazing way to say thank you to the families, as well as an excellent opportunity for the foster children to take on new responsibilities, raising and nurturing their own animals. It was also a unique way to provide financial support to the families, hoping to encourage more families to welcome children into their homes. 

This month six cows and several pigs were split between nine families. The families will rear the animals and will either sell any offspring or give them to new foster families. 

Jane, Care for Children's Country Manager in Thailand, said "I think this idea of encouraging and supporting the families with cows and pigs is a brilliant one! There are so many life lessons the boys can learn by helping their foster parents care for these animals – responsibility and financial planning being just two of them."

We're committed to giving every child a family because it's the best place for children to grow and explore the world around them. These opportunities wouldn't be possible without the transformation that has taken place in child welfare in Thailand. Life in an orphanage will always have limits, but a family provides the freedom for a child to thrive. 

Once again, thank you for your support and staying connected to our work.

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While our team was recently visiting Vieng Ping to deliver some training, we interviewed one of the foster parents who had taken in a child from the orphanage…

“I used to work in a school for seven years. When I left the school, I thought of applying to become a foster parent as I had seen other people in my village who were fostering. I went to the orphanage four times to inquire about being a foster parent and then finally one day I got a call to say that they had a little boy for us. I ran to tell my husband and just exploded with excitement that he was going to have a new son. Right from the first day, we felt like he was a part of our family and I told him over and over, You are our son, you are part of our family."

"This little boy has ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and he doesn’t always manage to pay attention and concentrate when he is at school. Having worked in a school before, I knew how important it was that I have a good relationship with his teacher and that I follow-up on his progress. At first, my foster son would say that he didn’t have any homework and after a few days I thought to myself that I’d better check with the teacher. I called the teacher and she said that she always gave the children homework, so I asked her if she would mind checking with my foster son every day to make sure that he had written down what the homework was. She was happy that I was taking that much interest in my son and we work together to make sure he gets the best from his education.”

Once again, thank you for your support and staying connected to our work.

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Foster mother and foster children
Foster mother and foster children

While our team in Thailand was recently visiting Vieng Ping to deliver some training, we interviewed one of the foster parents who had taken in a child from the orphanage…

“There was a little girl at the children’s home who had special medical issues. I noticed she was always alone – she ate separately, she didn’t play with the other children and she slept apart from the others. She cried constantly and especially going to and from school. My heart went out to her. I have always thought of myself as an ugly duckling and someone who didn’t always fit in, so I felt a deep compassion for this little one. After I received permission to foster her, I made sure that she knew that she could be right by my side and I was happy that she was close to me. I sat her right next to me when we ate together, I took her everywhere I went, and I gave her constant love and warmth. I saw her transform before my eyes. 

“The day they told me they had found her an adoptive family in the US, I cried and cried and I thought my heart would never recover, but I knew this was a wonderful opportunity for her to be part of a long-term family. I never forgot her. She has a permanent place in my heart. I wasn’t sure if she remembered me but several years ago I received a message from her saying that she had been trying to find me for some time. She wanted me to know how well she was doing and that she has had a wonderful family life and she has never forgotten the love I showed her.”

Once again, thank you for your support and staying connected to our work.

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Care for Children

Location: Norwich, Norfolk - United Kingdom
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James Paul
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