Local authorities are said to try very hard to provide foster care for UAMs but it was also stated that there are as of yet no foster families that are specialized in coping with UAMs. One of the crucial points is said to be the lack of training for the foster families. Experts explained that there is no acceptance for specialization based on nationality; the only exception to this way of thinking is a foyer for Romanian minors. Despite the efforts of local authorities to develop the care system for UAMs, specialists in the field stated that the basic problem for migrant children still remains. The départements are one of the factors causing this situation as they are free to choose the institutions they work with and therefore do not have to choose the ones specialized in UAMs.
Three organizations that have experience with accommodating UAMs in foster families are Fondation Grancher, the Service d’accueil familial du département de Paris and the Service d’accueil des Mineurs Isolés Etrangers du département du Pas-de-Calais.
Fondation Grancher is a foster care service that works with foster families in the Loire et Cher region. The organization is responsible for a total of 157 children. It started the care for UAMs two years ago, taking on responsibility for 8 UAMs. This number has not increased since then, which the foundation subscribes to the new national cell not working as it should and to the fact that most children are over 16 (45%) and are therefore not being placed in foster families. According to the foundation, since inclusion is not yet commonplace in France and since using foreign foster families is thought to be discriminating, it works only with French families. These families can take care of 1-3 children. Another reason mentioned for not having more UAMs in foster care is the fact that it has proved to be difficult to recruit foster families for this group of children.
The foundation consists of social workers, family workers and a psychologist. Asked what developments would ameliorate the situation for UAMs, the foundation stressed that the results of the care being given to them should be evaluated. The foster mother present at the meeting organized for the purpose of this project explained about the difficulties both she and the girl she takes care of face, mainly because of their different backgrounds. She claimed that living with families with the same cultural background would be better for unaccompanied minors.
Service d’accueil familial du département de Paris
This service provided care to 7 UAMs in 2014, some of whom are thought to have family members in France. Even if this were to be the case, it was thought that the children would probably not disclose that fact because it might be a reason for them to be removed from the care system.
The service works with 110 foster families all over Paris. 90% of them come from North Africa, mainly from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, and have been in France for a long time. According to the service, families that work with them have to be neutral and non-religious because of the fact that they work for a public service. Families receive €1,300 per child per month, which is financed by the département.
Service d’accueil des Mineurs Isolés Etrangers du département du Pas-de-Calais
Compared to many other regions in France, the Pas-de-Calais département has a better-developed system of foster care, for which it is well known. This is the result of a long tradition of foster care. The large population of UAMs, help from an expert like France Terre d’asile and a political climate that enables the département to develop good support arrangements for minors mean that the département is able to take responsibility for this group of children and offer a diversity of placement solutions.
The département wants to further develop reception of UAMs within foster families since experience has shown that many UAMs would benefit from a family environment. Another important reason is that the institutions are fast reaching their capacity, resulting in the département having to devise alternative placement solutions.
The département employs 1,900 foster families that can receive a total of 5,950 children. These families are French families who mostly take care of French children but can also foster foreign children. Apart from the fact that the recruitment of families with the same cultural background is supposed to be near-impossible given the limited availability of resources, it is also regarded as discriminatory against the minors since the goal for these children is integration in France. A positive side effect of reception of UAMs in French foster families is said to be that the French children learn to respect adults and the importance of school from the foreign foster children.
The foster families that are being used are all professional foster carers, employed by the département. They have signed an ‘agreement’ confirming that they are capable of being a foster parent. The ‘service familial’ of the département supports the families. The département is also exploring the possibilities to work with voluntary families in the future.
Recent research on foster families’ training needs showed that training about how to take care of UAMs is required. Therefore, a 2-day training course on this topic will start in June 2015 to address issues that are challenging for foster families, like differences in language, food and religion between them and the minors.
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Mission Mineurs Isolés Etrangers
DPJJ – DPMIE
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