How the Church of Georgia and the EU are helping children find foster families

09-09-2020

Since the Georgian government started closing down children’s institutions, it has been working on developing better alternative forms of care for children deprived of family environment.

Trust fostering is considered one of the best solutions for disadvantaged children, in which the child is placed with a foster family. This type of care is closest to a family environment, allowing the child to feel cared for, protected and safe.

Unfortunately, the number of disadvantaged children in Georgia is too big for the foster families available. That’s why the EU-funded project ‘Trust fostering – a child’s right to be fostered in a family and community’ aims to improve childcare services in Georgia. The project is implemented by the NGOs Partnership for Children, Partnership for Social Welfare and the Georgian Foster Care Organisation in collaboration with the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) and the Ministry of Health.

Project Head Gia Kakachia from the Georgian Foster Care Organisation explains why the GOC was selected to help with this project:

“Georgians have a big trust in this institution, so we thought this would help us greatly in achieving the project goals.”

The project is implemented in five eparchies (provinces) of the GOC, including the Eparchy of Batumi in the Autonomous Republic of Adjara (a political-administrative region of Georgia). Each eparchy is assigned a project coordinator.

“All coordinators have completed training in our organisation. Their role is to find foster families and disseminate information about trust fostering in general. Despite the GOC’s involvement in the project, our coordinators work outside their parishes too. They visit schools and pre-schools, and talk to people of different religions,” says Gia.

Ekaterine Chiladze, coordinator in the Eparchy of Batumi, talks about her involvement in the project:

“Our job in the project is to inform the parish about trust fostering and encourage families to foster. People in the parish are quite interested. After church service, the priest usually organises a meeting where we provide participants with information and answer their questions. Sometimes, we do home visits where we explain the procedures in more detail and help families with the registration documents. These visits help us determine how prepared the family is to foster a child,” says Ekaterine.

Maya Chijavadze is a foster parent who participated in the project about two years ago. She lives in the village of Shuaghele, western Georgia, and works as a teacher. Maya has three children, the youngest being 18. When her oldest children grew up, she and her spouse started talking about adopting or fostering a disadvantaged child.

“When I learnt about the project, I filled out an application and registered as a foster caregiver. I also received special training at the Georgian Foster Care Organisation. Although I am an experienced parent and have lots of experience communicating with children at school, I found the training very useful. I realised this as soon as the child was placed with us. She has a mild intellectual disability, so she could not communicate with us freely.

As part of the fostering process, a psychologist helped Maya overcome the communication problems with the girl. Now the child loves living with her foster family and calls her caregivers mummy and daddy:

“I often see notes around the house reading ‘Mummy, I love you very much’. Nothing compares to the pleasure of sharing love and affection with these children who lack care,” says Maya.

It is worth mentioning that the EU’s financial support for the project continues after the children become of age and are no longer in the care of the state.

“To support these children after they tun 18, the project envisages funding depending on their needs and future plans. This is very important for helping them embark on a life of independence,” says Gia.

Author: Tamar Kuratishvili

Article published in Georgian by sknews.ge