Foster care for UAMs in Belgium is not very common. One of the problems is that organizations for foster care recruit their foster families in native Belgian society and face problems with finding families who are willing to accommodate this group. Public opinion on youth care in general forms one of the reasons. As the functioning of the youth care system receives a lot of criticism, the emphasis lies on improvement of the care for Belgian children and not on unaccompanied minors.
Flandres and the French community have their own policies and practices for foster care of UAMs. In both parts of the country, the age of the children is decisive in the choice for fostering or institutional care.
In Flanders, some unaccompanied minors are referred to facilities for foster care. For those who are seeking asylum, this can only be the case in the second phase of their application if being financed by the federal government. In cases of continued reception (i.e. after their application for asylum has been approved) placement in foster care is always possible and financed by the OCMW, a community public authority.
Minors over 16 are hardly ever accommodated in foster care unless they have relatives or other acquaintances who are willing to care for them. However, this can also be a problem: authorities sometimes refuse a placement of this kind, suspecting that the family is only prepared to accommodate the child in order to receive the financial compensation. In this case the unaccompanied minor can be allowed to live with the family, but the family does not receive any compensation or support.
There are several facilities for foster care that offer foster care to unaccompanied minors, although the capacity is limited. There are no reliable figures on the number of unaccompanied minors in foster care as there is no compulsory registration. It is known, however, that many unaccompanied minors under 12 are being accommodated within their network, i.e. their own communities. As these placements are not part of the youth welfare system, the agency for youth welfare has no view of these minors.
Minor-Ndako has been successful in accommodating unaccompanied minors under 12 years of age in foster families that were found through school and church communities on a small scale. This is seen as a preferable alternative over the in-house reception, which is integral for all target groups under 12, both for Belgian and foreign children.
The fact that this organization recently created a registration counter which can be contacted by guardians and care providers in order to file a request for special youth care can be seen as a promising practice for the development of foster care arrangements for unaccompanied minors, since the counter will have an overview of the total population and the associated needs, also regarding foster care.
Vogelenzangstraat 76, 1070 Brussels
+32 2 503.56.29
In the French-speaking community, unaccompanied minors are never accommodated in the official foster care system. The percentage of those who live with extended families is estimated at 15-20%, although this figure could be more since not all of them are known to the authorities. For those who are in view of the authorities and have been appointed a guardian, the guardian will try to have the family recognized as an official foster carer by the agency for youth welfare (Aide a la Jeunesse), which qualifies them to receive expenses and support. Sometimes, a guardian will discover that the foster family does not have the means, capacity or wish to look after the child. In this case the agency for youth welfare is also brought in by the guardian in order to investigate the situation and take appropriate measures (for instance, placement in an institution on weekdays).