The conference room was abuzz with the sound of various languages. People from across Europe, and around the globe, were introducing themselves to each other, trying to understand each other, despite cultural and language differences. Yet, common ground was quickly found, as each was there for one central purpose; to help children in need, and to bring awareness to the child welfare.
Child welfare and foster care experts from across the world gathered together by the shores of Marathon, Greece, outside of Athens, as they took part in an historical, international adoption and foster care conference. Led by the Roots Research Center in Greece, these global experts focused upon one issue; the human rights of children around the globe during the two-day conference, held in the last week of May, 2017.
It was both so very inspiring and informative. To be sure, I came away from the conference gaining great insight into how the foster care and adoption process works in other parts of the world; insight that will I will be able to share with others throughout the United States.
The theme of the first day centered around adoption, with foster care focused upon during the second day. Speakers from Croatia, India, Romania, Belgium, Norway, Greece, the Netherlands, Geneva, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Hungary, Estonia, were featured. I was the sole speaker to speak on two separate occasions and had the opportunity to both share my story as a foster and adoptive parent, as well as explain how the foster care system works in the United States. Without a doubt, it was a distinct honor to have been a part of this conference.
In many developing nations across the globe, poor economic situations leave little financial assistance for government assistance. Lack of available health care, adoption organizations, and governmental aid for families and children are the reality. As a result, foster care agencies are not in place, resulting in many displaced children. Foster care in these parts of the world is much more informal and often unregulated by a State agency. Often, children are placed with family members or even orphanages.
European countries are generally considered to have the most advanced foster care systems available. However, there are distinct differences between regions throughout the continent. In Scandinavian nations, the system is perhaps the most efficient and advanced. The governments of these nations are very involved in the promotion of foster care, and provide sufficient funds, staff, and training. Western European nations have seen a reduction of government involvement in foster care, though it is still a highly developed child welfare system. The lack of funds has seen a large decrease in the placement of children into care. Central and Eastern European nations, perhaps due to those nations suffering under Communism for decades, has the weakest foster care system and the fewest amount of foster homes on the continent. Never the less, this region has the greatest need for one, as more children are in need of placement into a foster home than in any other region of Europe.
Policy makers, attorneys, child welfare workers, and experts from several countries worked together on the shores of the Aegean Sea, sharing the practices of their own country with others, and discussing how to improve child welfare and foster care across the world.
I was encouraged to find that those in attendance were most interested in how the foster care system functions here in America, and how they can take some of those practices back to their own country. I feel that there is an international movement to improve foster care around the world, and I am excited to be a part of it.
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