Unlike adoption, foster care may not assure of a permanent family to a child but ensures family like environment to a child for time being depending on his/ her need.
In adoption, the relationship with the biological parents is severed permanently and granted lawful parentage to the adoptive family and whereas in foster care, it is an alternate care in the domestic environment of a family, other than the child’s biological family.
To enable foster care, District Child Protection Unit (DCPU) is entrusted with the responsibility to identify a foster family (after a desiring family submits an application to them) and the child who is in need of family like environment to live in, and recommends them both to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) of a district for placement with a short term/ long term order.
Unlike in adoption, most of the foster care responsibility is laid on the shoulders of the DCPU with little or no oversight. For example, when a desiring family submits an application to be a foster family, DCPU is not mandated to complete the diligence in a timely manner and there is no one in the hierarchy with the stated responsibility for accountability.
All that is about to change with the improved transparency and accountability. As per Mission Vatsalya document of ministry of Women & Child Development of Government of India, Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is the nodal agency for promoting adoption and foster care and CARA has an exclusive online portal for all the adoption related activities called ‘Child Adoption Resource Information and Guidance System’ (CARINGS). Now, CARA has developed an online foster care registration process on their web site (www.cara.wcd.gov.in) at this link:
Looking at the online form, one can assume that as soon as the form is submitted, it will be forwarded to the respective SARA/ DCPU which is expected to complete the process in a timely manner and DCPU failing to do so, CARA could forward the matter to SARA for assistance.
This is a good first initiative in promoting foster care as any desiring family in India need not go to the DCPU office anymore to submit the application but submit it online itself. This initiative could be strengthened further by CARA by having a separate portal to cover the entire gamut of activities similar to CARINGS portal on CARA web site itself by including the available children by district wise, home study report to be uploaded by DCPU, CWC orders to be uploaded by the CWC.
If I may suggest, CARA needs to frame timeline guidelines for foster care such as time to complete the home study, time to complete the orientation of foster family members, time to recommend the family to CWC and time to issue the final CWC order of foster care etc. Once that is done, on the exclusive foster care portal, there could be a calendar of events that are stated above with the expected date of completion (calculated using the date of registration) and the actual date of completion to improve transparency.
CARA has taken a great first initiative, but we still have a long way to go to help every child who deserves a loving home to find one and I am sure we’ll get there sooner than later.