While I was a deputy, one of the realities that most impressed me was that of family care. As I studied the subject and visited institutions, it was with a deep sense of injustice that I saw the unacceptable denial of a family by the State to thousands of children.
This is a serious and perverse reality, if we consider that at stake are especially vulnerable children, for whom life has failed and for whom the State could not fail. But it fails. It failed then and continues to do so today.
Despite the need for the State to privilege family care, to the detriment of residential care, inscribed in the law since 2015, Portugal continues to do exactly the opposite. Institutionalization continues to be the rule: of the total number of children and young people in foster care in 2021, 96.5% were in residential care and 3.5% in foster care.
There are several reasons for giving priority to foster care. Firstly, due to the positive impacts it has on the level of affective bonding, due to the importance it has in performance at school, ideas that are easily summarized in a sentence that everyone will understand: every child should have the right to a family. The desirable thing was that they could continue in their natural context of life, but if this was not the case, the guarantee of a family environment became the responsibility of the State. Failed as you can see.
As a result of the importance and sensitivity of the issue, there were several legislative changes carried out by the Assembly of the Republic to seek to promote family care. In terms of taxation, in terms of justifying absences to assist these children, as well as the financial reinforcement that is far from paying the amount that is given from the heart to those who, due to the vicissitudes of life, were deprived of growing up with their family, there were several amendments to the law to promote this regime.
It is, also for this reason, disturbing to look at the most recent data that show that only one in every 13 children, between 0 and 6 years old, is in foster care. In the whole country, there are only 224, in a total of more than six thousand children. Is the State duly promoting this measure, sensitizing potential interested families? Are spaces being favored so that Family Support and Parental Counseling Centers or Local Contracts for Social Development participate more consistently in intervention at the level of foster care? Why not replicate the good example that has been set by Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa in this matter?
There are, in fact, countless questions that must be asked by those responsible for protecting this sensitive area. But more than responding to each one of them, it would be important to respond to the needs of these children. As? Making foster care a priority, guaranteeing these children a family.
The author writes according to the Orthographic Agreement of 1990