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Opinions of Friday, 2 December 2011

Columnist: Kuyini, Ahmed Bawa

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

)