6 June 2024

According to the National Statistical Office of Thailand, more than 3.5 million children and young people who have been orphaned or abandoned need proper care. And this number increases every year. While some are taken into some form of care, either housed in or moving between government-funded shelters and homes, very few are fortunate enough to be adopted. But the future of these children does not have to depend on just two options. They can also be fostered by eligible families who can give them temporary care and help them on the road to a more promising future.

Care for Children, a UK-based child welfare and international development non-profit organization, has long been an advocate of foster care for children. Recently the organization announced its milestone collaboration with the Department of the Children and Youth to create more awareness of the problem and promote the foster care system in Thailand.

Care for Children’s flagship project was established in China in 1998, and expanded to Thailand in 2012, Vietnam in 2017, and most recently, Cambodia in 2021 as it continues to promote its global vision to see ‘a world of children in families. The organization’s in-country project team works directly with government authorities to create and deliver country-specific training programmes that focus on immediate frontline results that will see children placed with local, loving families. Each country project goes through a four-stage development process, culminating in an established national foster care programme, child welfare homes that have been transformed into new and dynamic community resource centers, and access to Care for Children’s tailor-made training materials and resources.

Since its inception, the Thai project has directly trained administrators of every government Child Welfare Home and Shelter for Children as well as families in every province of Thailand. Family placement workers have been trained across the country, developing the core infrastructure to build a sustainable system of care for orphans and vulnerable children under the state’s protection. The primary focus of the current project stage in Thailand is to raise national awareness of foster care to recruit more foster parents.

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“We know from research, and we know from experience, that children thrive in families,” says Robert Glover, Founder and Executive Director of Care for Children. “A big institution can be a tough environment for a child. In institutions, staff change all the time, and it can be difficult to provide the warmth, understanding, and love that a child needs. When children are growing up in a family, parents take care of them all the time. They need parents, they need the love of a family.”

“We are fully aware of the importance of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child and guidelines regarding alternative care for children,” said Anukul Peedkaew, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. “The Ministry thus drew up the National Child Protection Strategy of 2017-2021 that focuses on alternative care for children in the form of children and youth shelters that accommodate youngsters with different requirements and needs to help promote their growth and development. Another key focus in the strategy is the foster care system, which can be a decent option for the children as local communities and the private sector can participate in protecting and providing proper welfare for them. We are also aiming to transform child shelters and homes into learning centers that provide knowledge and know-how about child welfare in the future.”

Foster care can make an immense difference. Not only does it help ease the burden and relieve the crowded conditions in government-run homes, but it also ensures a better formative life for the children. Families, as well as single individuals, can apply to foster a child. Once their application is approved, they can choose to care for that child—or children—for as long as they wish without legal obligation towards them. The children may remain in the foster care system until they are adopted, reunited with their birth parents, or become fully independent to live on their own.

Long-term foster care enables children to have the stability and loving environment of a family while remaining under the government’s legal, financial, and professional support.  Short-term placements are also an important part of the foster care system in Thailand.  While child welfare homes and emergency shelters can accommodate their basic needs, foster families can offer much more by giving them the necessary love, guidance, and attentive care physically, emotionally, and socially, all within the nurturing environment of a family home.

Foster care transforms children’s lives and prepares them to return to their biological families or become part of society as well-developed adults, and at the same time gives foster parents a chance to contribute to society through an affordable yet impactful process.

For enquiries in English language, contact The Child Adoption Center.

By Veena Thoopkrajae with additonal report by Manta Klangboonkrong