From Madagascar to Australia: Reflections on foster care in various cultures

From Madagascar to Australia: Reflections on foster care in various cultures

Lanto Robivelo is the National Director of our partner organisation, FAMadagascar. As a Board Member of the International Foster Care Organisation (IFCO), he recently travelled to Australia to attend the IFCO Conference in Darwin. As Lanto seeks to develop foster care in Madagascar, with funding and technical assistance from MJF, we were also glad to connect him with our affiliate organisation, Key Assets Australia, for a visit where he had the opportunity to learn about foster care within their context. He shares reflections from his trip below.

As a social worker and the National Director of FAMadagascar, I am always eager to learn from others in the field and share my experiences. Recently, I had the opportunity to do just that in Australia.

International Foster Care Organisation Conference

I am a board member of the International Foster Care Organisation (IFCO), and I recently attended the IFCO Conference in Darwin, Australia, which focused on cultural identity, family-based alternative care, and foster care. As a Board Member, I supported the conference by preparing information about global child protection, particularly highlighting African contexts, including Madagascar.

The conference was an excellent opportunity to learn about the best practices and challenges of foster care, during and after placements, in different countries and cultural contexts. We explored how trauma can impact children, foster carers, therapists, and social workers and how important it is to understand the cultural needs of people, for example, Indigenous people. One thing that stood out to me was the question of what happens to young people with care experience when they turn 18 and whether they have the support they need to stand up as they begin to transition out of care or if more diverse support is required for them to thrive.

Three photos with attendees from the IFCO Conference in Darwin Australia

Visiting Key Assets Australia

After the conference, I visited Key Assets Australia (KAA) in Perth, Western Australia, for two days. During my time there, I learned about KAA’s core values and strategies for their foster care programs. Plus, I spent an entire day with their team to learn about their work processes, tools, jurisdictions, and strategies they have and try to put in place. I also observed their identification of foster carers process and “shadowed” a team on a visit to a future foster care family. I was impressed by KAA’s commitment to forming a “family bond” with families and the training and communication they provide

I was particularly inspired by the devotion of a single woman who is a future foster carer. Her professionalism and devotion showed me that many people in this world can make a difference.

Everything I observed and learned impressed me, and I would like to introduce some of this learning to our organisation, FAM, especially as I realised there are many similarities between Madagascar and Australia, such as weather, indigenous culture, people’s attitudes and conduct. One thing that would be beneficial to bring back to Madagascar is the process of connecting NGOs like FAM with the judiciary system/judges through technology, which could have a significant impact in resolving problems during emergencies involving children. Additionally, I hope to adapt elements of the identification of foster carers process used by KAA, as well as the training and communication strategies, to help future social workers in Madagascar better understand gatekeeping, child protection and the responsibilities of foster carers.

KAA staff shared that they learned a lot about the Madagascar context, including some of the challenges we face and how these can be addressed and even avoided within their work.

In conclusion, my trip to Australia was a memorable and valuable experience. I learned much about the importance of team, commitment, communication, and identification of carers in foster care. I plan to bring these lessons back to Madagascar to help improve our child protection and foster care system.

Two people standing in front of the Key Assets Australia welcome sign in Australia
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