There are currently around 250 boys and girls in Malta who are living in a family environment with foster carers.
Some 300 delegates, including professionals, academics, foster carers and children from 42 countries are meeting in Malta for the World Conference of the Foster Care International Organisation.
The delegates are discussing quality care systems for vulnerable children in which the children themselves and the family will be the central focus.
Since the National Association of Foster Care was established in the 90s, more than 500 children were welcomed in a family environment away from their biological parents.
Addressing the opening session of the Malta conference, President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca appealed delegates to be activists of children’s rights and a source of health for all the children who find themselves in such situations.
“Let me encourage you once again to be effective activists of children’s rights and a source of strength and empowerment for all children in out-of-home care,” the President added.
Every decision taken in the interest of children, the President stated, has a direct impact also on societies’ well being. She said that we cannot continue to be impassive, when many children and youths are being lost in what she described as a labyrinth of institutions and formal systems.
In the light of the United Nations Convention on children’s rights, which stresses that ideally children should live in a family environment, University of Nottingham Professor Kevin Browne said that the best choice for small children is care in the framework of a family and not residential institutions.
“Just bear in mind when a child is scared because they are ill or a nightmare, how many of them can go and be cuddled up in their parents bed and that makes all the difference”.
He further remarked that in residential institutions many times children do not develop a close relation with carers and given the full love as that in a family environment.