Despite the presence of a legal framework (Children’s Act 2001) to promote foster care in Kenya, the options therein provided are rarely put to use. This care option has not been practiced in the country on a large scale, mostly due to lack of awareness among Kenyans. In case you’re wondering what’s the difference between foster care and adoption, well, with adoption, full legal custody and rights are granted to the adoptive parents. Care for the child is entirely the responsibility of the adoptive parent(s). Foster care on the other hand, the child’s legal guardian still maintains all parental rights for the child. Foster care operates by taking in children from their homes due to the lack of care or abuse by parents. It is a system in which a minor has been placed into a ward, group home, or private home of a state-certified caregiver, referred to as a “foster parent” or with a family member approved by the state.

Placement of the child is normally arranged through the government or a social service agency. They can go to a certain family that is willing to take in a child or can’t bare any children so they are willing. What a social service does, is it goes to that home and observes the family, maybe how one keeps their house to see whether the environment is conducive for a child and so on.

In other cases, for example I might be living with say only my father, but he’s a drunkard and has no job, the social service agency can decide to take me away from my father’s home, to live with another family. So, for me to be able to live with my father again, a social worker is sent regularly to check whether my dad got a job and how much it’s paying as this will tell whether he can take care of the both of us. My father would also be required to show proof that he’s not been drinking or better still, signed up to a rehabilitation center.

Some families are so dysfunctional even at the extended level, so that is why foster care is being recommended whereby you have individuals who decide to put themselves available to take care of a child even if they are not related to this child.

In case you are wondering how foster care works, well the Kenyan law stipulates that for one to be a foster parent, you should be a Kenyan living in the country, be aged above 25 years and less than 65 years.

Non-Kenyans who wish to be foster parents have a chance to do so but only after residing in the country for at least 12 months.

Those wishing to foster a child are supposed to visit the sub county children’s offices where they will be given an application form to fill. Once that is done, the officer will do an assessment of the individual as well as the assessment of the family to ascertain the child will be taken good care of.

Where need be, training will be conducted after which the child will be placed under foster care and a certificate issued by the sub-county children’s officer. This certificate is to last 12 months after which a monitoring review is conducted through visits to see how the child is doing.