Appoġġ has launched a campaign urging people to take up fostering, as data shows that only half of the children in out-of-home care are fostered.
By the end of 2017, 230 children out of the total of 480 who are not living with their biological parents were being fostered by 208 carers.
The number of new carers, which reached a low of seven in 2016, increased to 39 last year, but more needs to be done, Foundation for Social Welfare Services CEO Alfred Grixti said at the launch of the campaign called Open your heart and your home – Choose fostering.
Encouraging people to take up foster caring should in no way be understood as criticism levelled at children’s homes, Mr Grixti said. He commended the ‘family environment’ created at children’s homes, and the care that priests and nuns had provided for years on end.
The CEO added that one of the cultural challenges that needed to be overcome was the reluctance by prospective carers to take care of children who were not biologically related.
At the launch, service manager Josephine Muscat noted that when children were taken into care by foster parents, who provided them with a family environment, they often found a sense of security and stability.
The figures presented during the launch of the campaign on Monday morning show a drop from 60 new foster carers in 2011 to 16 in 2015. The figure dropped again to seven in 2016.
Ms Muscat noted that out of the total of 230 fostered children, 64 were there on a voluntary basis, another 132 were taken into care following a Care Order, and the remaining 34 were put into care through a Court Order.
Family Minister Michael Falzon, meanwhile, explained that the reasons that children could not stay with their biological families varied, and included illness, death and current social realities.
He referred to a 38 per cent increase - from €70 to €100 per week – in the allowance provided to foster carers, which he said reflected the government’s commitment to the sector.
The Fostering Service within Agenzija Appoġġ can be contacted on 2295 9000, 9901 0533 or 9955 7704 during office hours or through this Facebook page.