3
Opinions Fri, 2 Dec 2011

Foster Care Regulations to Protect Ghanaian Children

The recent rise in the number


of abuse cases involving young boys raises the stakes for a review of the foster


care rules and regulations, which seems to have loop holes that put boys at


risk.


There has been a significant rise in the number young boys who are abused by


paedophiles in Ghana, not only due to increased reportage but other social changes.


In the past, the practice and reportage of such incidents would have been limited,


due to close community living arrangements and strong abhorrence of such acts.


However, as the traditional community structures are beginning to completely unravel


due to rapid urbanisation and modernisation, it is easy for evil-minded adults to


abuse children without being noticed by others. There is also a conspicuous rise in


the numbers of people who have alternative sexual orientation in a culture where


such a life-style has never been tolerated. It is therefore now common to read


incidents of male child abuse almost daily. Only last week (21 November 2011), the


Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) reported that there has been an


increase in the rate of sodomy at JHS. The report sourced from JOY FM said that more


teenage boys in the Junior High School are becoming victims of sexual abuse and many


of these young boys and their families are reluctant to report such cases to the


police. The rest of the report contained very horrible and sad experiences suffered


by the victims.


This development makes the need for reform of our foster care


regulations more critical. In fact, when I read the story, I immediately realised


that it would be useful to make public, the content of a letter I sent only a few


weeks ago to the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare urging the Ministry to


consider reviewing the foster care regulations.


The issue at stake is that some


sections of the foster care regulations in the current form, will unintentionally

put boys at risk and therefore should be amended. Please read the letter


below.





Petition to the Minister of Employment & Social Welfare to re-examine


sections of the Foster Care Regulations (2007)








The Minister


Ministry of Employment


& Social Welfare


P.O. Box 1627 State House Accra


24th October 2011





Following a


careful reading of the Ghana Foster Care Regulations Document (2007), I observed


that sections of it ? if implemented without critical assessment by social workers ?


may not adequately protect Ghanaian children in foster care.


I would like to draw


your attention to two sections of the Foster Care Regulations that are of concern to


me.


The sections under are:


Criteria For Holding A Foster Care


License/Certification


Assessment Of The Personal Characteristics Of A Foster Carer


(Section F ? Personal Characteristics)





Firstly, points 6-8 of the section on

Criteria for Holding a Foster Care License/Certification state that:


6. An applicant


for a foster license shall be resident in Ghana but need not be a citizen of


Ghana


7. If married, the spouse of the license applicant shall consent to the


fostering arrangement.


8. No single male shall foster a female.





I find that point 6


and 8 can create loopholes for people of bad character to enter into the foster care


system in Ghana, for their own dubious reasons. This is because point 8 only looks


at a single male fostering a female child as problematic. However, the foster care


research literature shows that male children living with male foster carers are not


necessarily safe. This is because paedophilia has become a huge issue in recent


times in industrialised countries and even now in Ghana. In many jurisdictions,


governments and have tried to tighten the regulations to ensure that foster children


are not put at risk.





One may argue that in Ghana this would not be a problem


because our history and cultural experiences show no evidence of such danger to male


children from single males. However, given the current global phenomenon of rapid


social values dynamics, and the influx of people with different sexual lifestyles


into Ghana, male children fostered to single males may not necessarily be guaranteed


safety and protection. It is possible that boys who are fostered to single men may


be subjected to influences and acts that will violate their rights, dignity and may


not be in the children?s best interest. In light of this, it is important to amend


this section to include the criterion that no single man shall foster a male

child.





This amendment will not only strengthen the criteria of the relevant section


but also strengthen Section F. point #3 which focuses on assessment of the personal


characteristics of foster carers. In point #2 of section F, ?Good Character? is


considered an important criterion, but this is not covered in point #3 of the


section where pragmatic assessment of personal characteristics is outlined. This may


be overlooked by social workers who will be using this document as a guide because


it is not listed in the review of personal characteristics section.


This petition


intends to advocate for the Department of Social Welfare to ensure that people who


apply to foster children are not paedophiles or those who are likely to sexually


abuse children of similar gender.





Comments:


The abuse of children by paedophiles


is well documented in the foster care research literature in developed countries.


Ghana?s has begun attracting foreign investment at an unprecedented rate, and at the


same time, it is attracting all manner of people with different life-styles and


histories. The problem here is that Foster care regulation states under the General


Criteria for holding foster care license that ?An applicant for a foster license


shall be resident in Ghana but need not be a citizen of Ghana?. This opens the door


for single male foreigners who are resident here to apply to foster Ghanaian


children. And the likelihood of them succeeding in becoming foster parents is great


for the reason that they are richer than the average Ghanaian and most likely to be


preferred as foster parents to poor Ghanaian children.


The problem that arises

therefore is that when people with bad character ? who have been forced to disengage


from unacceptable behaviours towards children in their home countries ? arrive in


Ghana, only aspects of their histories will be known. And in this limited knowledge


lies the potential risk for Ghanaian children if such foreigners become foster


parents. It is important to note that in poor Ghanaian communities, Social Workers


may be attracted to these foreign foster carers who have money but may not have


other more important qualities ? e.g. good character. And sometimes, the economic


power of potential foster carers can lure social workers and even relatives into


making poor decisions with regard to foster care placements. Therefore changing


these sections will ensure that social workers, especially those recently trained


and those working in rural areas may not inadvertently deliver children into the


hands of potential child abusers, who come dangling their attractive economic baits


in poor communities.


Please tighten this section of the regulation and require


social workers to scrutinize more carefully any single males and females who have no


strong or close kinship relations with children needing alternative placement.





Sincerely





Dr. Ahmed Bawa Kuyini


CEVS-Ghana, Tamale. ( HYPERLINK


"http://www.cvsghana.org" www.cvsghana.org


)

Columnist: Kuyini, Ahmed Bawa