SFAC is always keen to extend its message to new communities and support the growth of local initiatives. Recently, Mick Pease and Walter Young travelled to Morocco – a first for SFAC and a hugely worthwhile step in an area where the standard response to children in crisis has been institutional placements.
As is often the case, the request for assistance came through a previous SFAC contact who advised that they needed to contact SFAC. This led to Dr Chris Hands, founder of the Moroccan Children’s Trust, speaking to Mick Pease about a fledgling foster care project in the small city of Taroudant which needed a sound practice base.
The Moroccan Children’s Trust works in partnership with the Association Fondation Amance Pour la Protection de l’Enfance (a local child protection charity) and together they were seeking better and more child-sensitive ways to manage the needs of children in need of alternative care. The initial behavioural issues or social problems could be quite minor, but the consequences for the children were traumatic and there was a growing sense that this could be dealt with so much better.
During their trip they had the opportunity to see at first hand the current provision in Taroudant, a traditional Moroccan community with an historic old town about an hour away from the busy tourist resort of Agadir, when they were invited to visit a local children’s home. They found children from infancy onwards with one carer attempting the impossible task of meeting all their needs.
Placement in these children’s homes has been the only solution for the social workers managing their care, but the hope now is that the training provided by SFAC will encourage the authorities to have the confidence to pass on the message that there are Family Based Care solutions as a workable alternative. Some of the social workers are in direct contact with the judiciary and uniquely placed to make the case for change.
Mick and Walter ran a week-long training programme for 16 local professionals in early October 2017, with the aim of equipping the staff with knowledge and skills from which they can go on to build a programme suited to their community and its needs. Topics included the process of developing a safe foster care programme, how to assess foster carers, how to support foster carers, how to match children with foster carers, deciding which children need foster care, and care planning. Participants included social workers already involved in the project, others working with court tribunals placing children, and one who is the director of a children’s home. All of them were new to the concept of fostering and how to apply it in their particular circumstances.
The Moroccan project is in its early stages, but SFAC was pleased to see good preparatory work in place for the selection of foster carers and the establishment of a fostering panel. Initial contacts have been made to identify children, aged between 6 and 14, who will benefit from the project as a direct alternative to placement in an institution.
Mick hopes that this message can be carried forward and is confident in the commitment of the social workers he and Walter met during a memorable trip – “Their enthusiasm was very inspiring, and their thirst for knowledge and information. It was such a privilege to meet and assist people in a country we have not been to before and continue to strengthen the message children thrive in safe families”. As for the training the responses were very enthusiastic and positive with one saying “I learned a lot about the concept of foster family, which I didn’t know before. It was an opportunity to learn about attachment, care plans, the development of the child, ways of learning and many other things.… Thank you very much”.