Foster children on increase
THE number of children requiring foster homes has increased in the last few years, largely because of the growth of single-parent families, according to the officer in charge of the Central Foster Care Unit.
As a result of a major publicity drive, Hong Kong could now provide foster homes for up to 480 children, double the provision available a year ago, Fanny Tsui said.
About 280 children were already placed in homes and a further 150 were being matched with suitable families. This year, 144 children have been placed, a record number. In 1991, in comparison, the unit handled 65 cases.
But the Central Foster Care Unit, under the Social Welfare Department, wants to further increase its capacity, to 600 places by 1997 to meet the growing demand for children needing temporary homes.
Ms Tsui estimated that nearly two-thirds of the children needing foster homes came from single-parent families. Other families might not be able to cope because of physical or mental illness. Some children had been abused, Ms Tsui said.
The expansion of registered foster families had meant that the service has been able to clear its long waiting list, but foster homes were still needed for new referrals.
The Unit deals directly with 60 placements, the rest are handled by six non-government organisations: International Social Service, Hong Kong Christian Service, Hong Kong Family Welfare Society, Save The Children, Hong Kong Lutheran Social Service and Mother's Choice.
The Central Foster Care Unit is responsible for finding the foster homes. Ms Tsui said most of the children needed homes for more than a year.
Except in cases where babies or small children were to be adopted, the aim was to return the children to their natural families. Such children would normally be placed in Cantonese-speaking homes. Those going overseas could be fostered by Caucasian families.
''Our ideal foster parents are healthy couples with happy, stable marriages, aged between 25 and 60, who have received at least primary education, have a tidy, clean and safe home with a sufficient living area. And of course they should have a fondness for children,'' said Ms Tsui.
Families who foster a child receive a monthly allowance of $2,928 per child.
''There is an increasing demand for child care,'' she said. ''When children are on the waiting list they must wait in institutions, or under the care of relatives in Hong Kong or China, or under the care of a child minder or parents whose care is not adequate.'' Most of the children being placed for the first time are under the age of 10, but the Unit is responsible for children up to 16.