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New Amendments to Family Care Scheme Introduced

Amendments to the foster care regime come into force this week.  The scheme now gives greater rights and support for foster/host families, giving them the same allowances and conditions in terms of labour laws and/or social benefits.

The scheme now allows foster families to have the same benefits as those granted to parents under the Labour Code, such as paid absences and annual leave.  Also, the State has confirmed that it will increase the ‘foster’ allowance to €522.91 and €691.55 per child, an increase on the previous figure of €330. The amount paid per child is assessed on age and other factors including disability.

Benefits are now paid as a lump sum and include monthly maintenance allowances as well as other social benefits such as child benefit, disability bonus, third-person assistance or dependency supplement. From now on, foster families may include the ‘foster’ child’s health and education expenses in their personal income declarations, and take time off to assist the child, as these minors are considered to be dependent on the foster person or family.

In addition, either mothers, fathers or both who are actively involved in the care of a foster child, up to the age of one year, are entitled to parental leave. Each family can host up to two children, with room for exceptional situations, particularly in the case of siblings.

The law also allows a foster family to ‘care’ for anyone over 25 and under 65 who is not the subject of an applicant for adoption, and who has a proven and registered physical and/or mental condition.

Finally, in exceptional cases, families may apply for parental protection and adopt their foster child, particularly in the case of very young children.

Family care is a protection measure for children and young people who have to be removed from their biological families and placed in the care of a family with whom they are not related, with a view to their eventual reintegration into their biological family.

The application process for families, as well as their selection, training and evaluation is the responsibility of the Private Social Solidarity Institutions (IPSS). The management of the reception system is the responsibility of the Social Security Institute (ISS) and the Santa Casa da Misericórdia of Lisbon.

Samantha Gannon

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