By Lauren Hollon Sturdy
LIMA, Peru—In a unanimous Dec. 5 vote, the Peruvian Congress passed a law that integrates foster care into the official legal code of Peru.
The new law will protect groundwork laid for foster care over the past six years through a collaboration between Buckner Peru, Buckner International and INABIF (Peru’s National Integral Program for the Well-being of Families).
Buckner Peru Director Claudia Leon Vergara spearheaded the foster care movement in 2007 when she initiated an agreement between Buckner and the Peruvian government. The first children were placed in foster homes in 2008. Since then, a total of 44 children have been placed in foster care.
“The foster care legal code approved on Dec. 5 will provide stability and assurance that foster care will be available to vulnerable children regardless of the change of the political party elected to office,” said Buckner President and CEO Albert Reyes. “The new law is the best way to ensure children’s rights are protected and it raises the potential for children to be placed into foster homes rather than in institutional care.”
Before the introduction of foster care, institutions were the only care option for vulnerable and orphan children in Peru.
“Early childhood experts say that for every three months a young child lives in an institution, they lose a month of physical, mental and psychosocial development,” Leon said.
The average orphanage stay in Peru is five years, and many children live in institutional settings until they age out at 18.
“If you impact the laws and policies and procedures, you’ll impact the quality of care and the outcome for these children and families to be more successful,” said JoAnn Cole, vice president of Buckner Children and Family Services. “For me, the whole story of what was done from 2007 to the passing of the law just shows how, if one person or a group of people have the passion and commitment and are working to help change systems, you will change a country.”
Foster care was a foreign concept in Latin America when Leon began promoting it as a solution for Peru’s vulnerable children.
“Conventional wisdom said foster care wouldn’t be culturally accepted, but over the years attitudes throughout Latin America have gradually started to shift,” said Dexton Shores, Buckner regional director for Mexico, Peru and the Dominican Republic.
Due to the success Buckner Peru has enjoyed with its foster care program, Leon was invited to provide foster care training in Argentina in 2008, Honduras and Guatemala in 2010, Guyana in 2012, and the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Mexico in 2013. Shores said the Dominican Republic is currently working on technical instruments and policy guidelines to make foster care a government option by next spring.
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