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More than 26 000 children in the Czech Republic are in a situation where their biological parents cannot or for some reason do not want to raise them. According to experts, the best solution to such a situation is to find an environment for such children that will best replace the family model, i.e. a surrogate family environment. Thanks to this, they can experience normal family situations, acquire the usual habits of life and prepare themselves better for real life.
All this cannot be offered (or only very imperfectly) by any quality institutional care, which is why foster care is the right choice. In terms of the law, we distinguish between:
In the context of children’s rights and care, we can also mention the concepts of guardianship and custody. Rather than ordinary care of the child itself, this is of particular importance in a legal sense, for example in the representation of the child. However, it depends in particular on who is appointed as guardian or custodian.
Tip: We have discussed the rights and obligations of the guardian in a separate article.
The recently approved amendment to the Act on Social and Legal Protection of Children is also a step towards supporting foster family care. It sets (with certain exceptions) the age limit for placing children in institutional care at three years of age. Until then, it is most suitable for the child’s future development to form an emotional bond with a specific person. According to child psychologists, this is the best option even if that person will no longer be caring for the child in the future.
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Different types of foster family education
Looking at one particular day of a child with foster carers, foster carers or temporary foster carers, we would probably not know the difference. So how do the different types of care differ?
The intention of the carers
The reasons and motives for which different people care for children can vary greatly. Carers are often parents who cannot have children themselves, or who want to bring a child into the family who does not have a family of his or her own. Foster carers are usually people who want to help so-called ‘unadoptable’ children. This may be a situation where the child is not legally available or where an adoptive parent has not been found for a long time. Transitional foster care often deals with situations where it is clear that the child will soon be legally free and it is more appropriate for the child to spend this time out of the institution, or in acute situations where the legal situation is unclear and there are temporary foster carers until it is resolved.
Age, gender, marital status of the carers
In the case of guardianship, the aim is to achieve a situation that is as close as possible to the original family. Typically, therefore, children are placed with couples who are a reasonable age apart from the child, corresponding to the age difference between the biological parents and the children. Single parents are therefore less likely to adopt a child, and this option is still legally prohibited for same-sex couples, although both variants of the family model are encountered in practice. Foster parents are no longer subject to such strict requirements. Although it is always recommended to place a child with a couple, as fostering itself brings a number of challenges, it is not a requirement. Similarly, we see foster carers who are already the age of the grandparents of the children they care for. And this is not a major obstacle either.
The legal situation of the child
Before adoption, the child must be freed from legal ties to the original parents (for example, they have relinquished or been deprived of parental rights). Subsequently, after the adoption , a parent-child relationship is established between the adopter and the adopted child. The adoptive parents therefore have parental responsibility, the child takes their surname and the child’s relationship with the original family ceases.
For children who are not legally free or who are unable to find an adoptive parent, the option of foster care is then offered. The foster parent has custody of the child and cares for him or her in a similar way to a parent. However, he or she has limited parental rights and needs parental consent or a court order to exercise them. Once foster care ends (typically when the child reaches the age of 18 or finishes his or her studies), there is no further legal relationship between the foster parent and the child.
Temporary care, as the name implies, creates only short-term relationships that cease once the situation is resolved. Both types of foster care are also linked to the foster carer’s entitlement to financial remuneration.
Guardianship and guardianship
In the introduction we also mentioned the person of the guardian and the ward. Let’s take a closer look at their role and relationship to the child.
- Theguardian is supposed to represent the interests of the child if there is a conflict between the interests of the child and those of another person. A guardian may be appointed, for example, for the purposes of court proceedings (in the case of divorce or adoption proceedings, it is usually the children’s social welfare authority, the OSPOD). In such a case, guardianship is in no way linked to real care. In some cases, however, a relative who also sometimes cares for the child may be appointed guardian.
- A guardian is usually appointed by the court if the child’s parents die or are deprived of full parental responsibility. If it is not contrary to the child’s interests, a person appointed by the parents may be appointed guardian. Often this is a grandparent or grandparents. Spouses can also be guardians. They are entitled to financial remuneration in a similar way to foster care.