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(DNO) – The Ministry of Health and Social Services, Social Welfare Division, is calling on residents to open up their hearts and homes to vulnerable children and become a foster parent.

This plea comes as officials say they are challenged with placement issues for several of the children who come into their care.

In an interview with Dominica News Online (DNO), Acting Coordinator for the Child Abuse Prevention Unit Nicole Toussaint Jno. Baptiste, revealed, “it is extremely difficult for us to find homes at this moment for the children who are in our care, especially the teenagers, therefore, we need persons who will say yes I want to give a child a chance.”

According to data provided by the division, there are 57 homes fostering children at present, however, Jno. Baptiste said that the number of children needing placement is estimated to be double that figure.

She said the main reasons why a child would be placed into the system are because they no longer can reside at home with a parent or parents because it is unsafe, because the child is being abused or neglected or their parents are unable to care for them financially.

Jno. Baptiste spoke about the process of getting a child into the system.

“When we find out a child is being abused, we remove that child immediately. In the instance when we can’t find a foster parent forthwith, we place that child at Chances in Jimmit, but this is temporary only three to six months, then the transition begins on finding a home for the child,” she explained.

She went on to urge, “We want people to open up their hearts to the children because they need help. So instead of leaving them in an abusive situation, we need to place them somewhere, so we really want people to come on board  and to come and apply.”

According to her, foster care is temporary placement, as a child can return to his or her biological parent or parents depending on the circumstance under which that the child was removed. However, Jno Baptiste stated that the 57 homes which are currently caring for the children have all been there for years.

She identified the multi placement of foster care children as another challenge which the division faces.

“What we don’t like is having to put that child in one home for two weeks, then having to remove that child in a home he or she is comfortable in. Because in most cases, that child has already settled down and started bonding, and here we come, having to once again uproot that child and have him or her start over with another family, so this is something that we’re really trying to prevent, although in most cases we don’t have a choice,” the Child Abuse Coordinator remarked.

Jno. Baptiste indicated that for those who enroll to become foster parents, the Government provides support which covers educational expenses, a monthly salary, and a yearly clothing allowance.

Those interested are urged to visit the office and fill out the necessary application form. A background check will be done after the application is filed and once approved, a suitable child will be placed in the applicant’s care.