ASTANA – Kazakhstan is developing a draft law on the introduction of professional foster families, which would mean all orphans and children left without parental care will be placed in foster care immediately.
The draft law is being prepared by the Office of the Commissioner for Children’s Rights, governmental and non-governmental organizations and international experts. The pilot project involving the first foster families is being tested in the Akmola Region.
To date, all orphans and children left without parental care end up in orphanages as they cannot be placed in families without bypassing institutional organizations. Under the new law, children will be transferred directly to a foster family.
According to the initiative, foster care will be carried out on the basis of an agreement. Foster parents will receive payment for their work and a monthly allowance for the children.
Research shows that upbringing of a child in a family affects their well-being better than upbringing in institutional organizations.
The importance of creating conditions for childcare in the family is also outlined in official United Nations documents. The resolution on the rights of the child adopted by the UN General Assembly on Dec. 18, 2019, calls on member states to provide children with high-quality, appropriate care alternatives to institutional care.
Murat Kabylbaev, an employee of the Children’s Society Mercy Public Foundation and the father of 16 foster children, supports the reform.
“We have been writing about the necessity of introducing professional foster families for about 10 years – this is simply necessary; the whole world is abandoning the use of orphanages; this is an inefficient form of child upbringing. Every child has the right to live and be brought up in a family,” Kabylbaev told Astana Times.
“Such a family should be under supportive monitoring for a year because the country has a deplorable situation with secondary orphanhood (when a foster family returns a child to the orphanage),” he added.
According to Alexander Lyakhov, assistant commissioner for children’s rights, the cost of raising a child in state institutions exceeds the cost of raising a child in families 13-fold, as a result of which the heads of institutions are not interested in placing children in families.
He suggests this as one of the reasons for slow deinstitutionalization, as there are 4,000-4,500 children placed in children’s homes.
The new model for Kazakhstan is being developed with the consulting support of Socieux+, the European Union expert center on employment, labor protection and social protection.
Daria Mamontova, project officer at Socieux+, spoke about the work carried out as part of the cooperation in an interview for this story.
“We received a request a year ago from the office of Kazakhstan’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights about obtaining expert support in organizing professional foster families in Kazakhstan,” said Mamontova.
There were four stages within the cooperation, she said.
The first two stages involved the development of recommendations for the identification of future professional foster families and the monitoring and evaluation of such families. Experts from Croatia and the Czech Republic visited Astana and Almaty to carry this out.
The third stage, which was conducted online, involved the development of training modules for future parents.
The last stage involved a visit to the Czech Republic by the Kazakh delegation, which included the commissioner for children’s rights and representatives of non-governmental organizations, the Committee for the Protection of Children’s Rights, and representatives of the Akmola Region, where the pilot project is taking place.
According to the experts, the Czech Republic was chosen due to its own experience in this field. After becoming a member of the EU in 2004, the country introduced a system of professional foster families through legislation and regulatory framework adjustments.
Experts concluded that the experience of European countries in launching professional foster families should not just be copied outright but adapted to the conditions in Kazakhstan.