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Epp. Legislation: New foster care bill protects children's rights

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<p data-block-key=The new foster care bill protects the rights and well-being of children by ensuring that all children in foster care receive appropriate support for development, Legislation Commissioner Louiza Zannetou Christodoulidou said on Friday in her speech during the International Conference on Adoption organized by HOPE FOR CHILDREN under the auspices of the Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare, on the occasion of World Adoption Day.

As he said, foster care is a process of alternative care and protection of children, for which the state has the legal responsibility and through which, a child is temporarily placed with a family other than his biological one with the aim of deinstitutionalizing the children and placing them in a secure and stable environment.

He added that among the member states of the European Union, fostering children is regulated by legal frameworks that ensure the rights and protection of children, while promoting solidarity and cooperation between countries, with Regulation (EU) 2019/1111 establishing uniform jurisdictional rules for divorce, legal separation and annulment of marriage as well as for disputes on matters of parental responsibility with an international dimension.

According to the Commissioner, in Cyprus foster care was implemented in 1956 with the Children Law Cap 352, a piece of legislation which she characterized as obsolete and in which there is a relevant provision that provides for the care of children by the state, which in practice is done through internal procedures , adding that the Social Welfare Services (SSW), under the Ministry of Social Welfare, are responsible for the implementation of the law and the management of foster care cases.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance states in its proposal to the Council of Ministers that the number of children under the care of the Director of Social Welfare Services amounts to approximately 1,500 children, of which 1,200 are unaccompanied minors, applicants for international protection, who are hosted either in relative foster families or in adolescent protection institutions, continued Ms. Zannetou Christodoulidou, adding that of the remaining children placed under the parental care of the Director of Social Welfare Services, 29% are placed in child and adolescent protection institutions, 65% accommodated in approved foster families and 6% are included in the semi-independent living program.

Next, the Commissioner stated that in the drafting of the new modernization bill assigned to her by the Council of Ministers, in collaboration with the YKE, the modern needs of children were taken into account as well as examples of other countries, such as Greece, with the aim of the bill being the regulation of the care and protection of a child, the parental care or custody of which is exercised by the Director by virtue of a law or a Court decision or the care of a child with the consent of the parents or those exercising parental care, the procedure for approving the suitability of foster parents and their obligations, the keeping Records, providing care to the fosters and supervising the fostering.

He added that the new bill further strengthens the principle of the interest of the child and its uniqueness, by introducing the creation of the Individual Care, Protection and Rehabilitation Plan, for each child, while within three months of receiving parental care or custody or care of a child, the Director prepares and coordinates the implementation of the Individual Care, Protection and Rehabilitation Plan with the contribution of an interprofessional team, which includes data on the child's condition, intervention measures in the areas of health, education, social integration as well as measures for a smooth transition to adulthood, while in addition to the individualized care plan, for each child a permanent representative of each service or agency is designated, as far as possible, for representation in the interprofessional team.

He noted that for children in the care of the state, the Director will be able to place them with foster parents who must be approved according to the procedure provided, or in semi-independent living with the provision of services to assist the transition to independent living during adulthood or in a child protection and care facility.

He also said that the trustees or agencies would be granted grants to meet the needs of the children, with the care of the person for whom the Director provided care when he was a child being able to continue to be provided after adulthood and until the age of 21 years old.

According to Mrs. Zannetou Christodoulidou, the fostering may concern a relative foster family, a traditional foster family, which provides care to non-relative children, two-day foster care for children with the aim of supporting high-risk families in order to prevent the removal of children from their parents, emergency foster care for children whose parents, due to extraordinary events, are unable to provide adequate care for their children, professional foster care is provided to children with disabilities, serious physical or mental health or behavioral problems, and foster care in a group of at least three foster children with maximum up to six children.

He added that the application to carry out an investigation of the suitability of persons to become foster parents is submitted by a couple of a man and a woman who have entered into a marriage or have entered into a civil partnership or have been living together for at least three years, or by individuals, while in each Province there will be a Committee for the Evaluation of Adoption Applications, consultation with the Director, who will examine whether the criteria of the absentees are met.

One of the most important changes in the bill according to the Commissioner is the introduction of foster care for children with disabilities or serious health and behavioral problems, through which specialized care is provided to these children, while in addition, the new bill creates a more organized system support and monitoring of foster families, with regular visits by social workers, which may be announced and/or unannounced, noting that non-cooperation of foster parents with the YKE is a criminal offence.

He further said that foster parents will be given protection under the Maternity Protection Act, the Parental Leave and Force Majeure Leave Act and the Paternity Protection Act, while in addition, the Bill in Part Five provides for Protection and Support Mechanisms for children, through the provision of services aimed at ensuring their well-being and their smooth transition to adulthood, which include access to and provision of health services, education and financial support.

Regarding the semi-independent living of a child, he said that the Director takes care of finding a suitable accommodation, appoints an adult person to take care of the daily practical support of the child, provides him with necessary living resources and ensures his access to services and programs that promote development to his full potential.

Referring to the incentives and facilities given by the new bill to foster parents, the Commissioner said that in the case of foster parents who work at the same time as employees and a child under the age of twelve is placed with them or in the case of a disabled child under the age of 18, the foster parents are entitled to the leaves in proportion to those provided for in the Maternity Protection Law, the Leave (Paternity, Parental, Caring, Force Majeure) and Flexible Work Arrangements for Work-Life Balance Law of 2022.

He added that a grant given to meet the needs of a child is exempt from any tax, while in the case that persons who are or have been foster parents wish to transfer and or register real estate to their foster parent or person who has been their underwriter can do so without paying the transfer fees.

“The new bill strengthens the underwriting process with clear procedures and protects the rights and well-being of of children, ensuring that all children in foster care receive appropriate support for their development. With the implementation of the new provisions, the bill aims to provide a safe, stable and supportive environment for children who are removed from their biological families, ensuring their smooth development and integration into society”, concluded Ms. Zannetou Christodoulidou.

Source: KYPE

Source: reporter.com.cy

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