Welcoming a child into your home to provide them with a safe and stable place is a noble, yet hard and personal decision for prospective parents. This can happen in a variety of ways, including both foster care and adoption. Understanding the differences can help hopeful parents decide which is the right decision for them.
You may be considering adoption or foster care but are dreading the process. Foster care dwells on the premise of reunification – it operates with the notion that connection with the biological parent is possible. Adoption, on the other hand, is the permanent placement of a child in a family-based environment. In this instance, once adopted, the child becomes legally and forever a part of the family. The Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) believes that these two options are better options than those which have children living in/growing up in an institution.
The OCA is the Commission of Parliament mandated to enforce and protect the rights and best interests of all children in Jamaica. Established in 2006 under the Child Care and Protection Act (2004), the Act is used as the guideline for the operations of the Office.
To achieve the goal of reducing the number of children in institutional care, the National Foster Care Programme, which forms part of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency’s (CPFSA) Flagship Programme, Living in Family Environments (LIFE), has sought to place children in family-based settings.
Children’s Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison explains that “Each process is aimed at providing a safe and loving home for a child.” Both processes include serious commitments on the part of the ‘new’ parent(s) and they ought to be supported to play a pivotal role in the life of the child. This is especially so because of the change in the child’s life and the adjustments that he/she will have to make.
Real Life Impact of Adoption an Fortering
In an effort to add its voice to the desire to have fewer children in institutions, the OCA is using the platform of its partnership with celebrity duo, Kerie-Ann (“Kiki”) and Denvo Thombs, to highlight some of the issues of our children on their television series, Real Life, aired Sundays on Television Jamaica (TVJ).
“We encourage adults who can, to consider adopting or fostering a child as the provision of a loving and caring home and family will go a long way in helping them become well-adjusted and eventually, positive contributors to Jamaica,” proposes Gordon Harrison. Gordon Harrison was at pains to highlight that, “of equal importance, is the child who is at the centre of the process, whether it be adoption or foster care. It is critical that each child be seen for his/her individuality and unique personality and be supported throughout the transition phase and along the journey so that they are reassured and can cope.”
In Jamaica, only persons below the age of 18 years are eligible for placement in foster care.
“We have too many children who should not have to be living in residential child-care facilities. If well-thinking Jamaicans should all embark on a personal mission to offer their support to children in this way and have children being placed in families, what a marked difference it would make in their lives,” she says.
Gordon Harrison points out that the OCA will continue to lend its voice to this very important issue as it is a good avenue through which children can be helped to survive, develop and feel protected within healthy and safe homes. She encourages prospective parents to learn as much as they can before deciding whether foster care or adoption is the best decision for them. For the OCA, whether this process of support to children takes place through an adoption or foster care programme or through partnerships with corporate Jamaica or with similar programmes like Real Life, good progress would be made.
Whilst the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) celebrates the successes and strides they have made over the past 15 years, Gordon Harrison feels that there is more work to be done. The OCA will always have work to do as children’s lives are impacted by so many evolving societal issues and the need for them to be safeguarded and have their rights promoted, will continue to be relevant.
Visit www.welcome.oca.gov.jm for more information on the work of the Office of the Children’s Advocate.