Only with the heart can one see properly

What foster children say about foster care

Marina Knežević Barišić
Fotografije od clanovima udomitelskoj obitelj tete Anice i striceka Zorana
UNICEF/Knežević Barišić
09 September 2019

“I would love every child to have a place for himself or herself, to have someone take care of just him or her, a family. Like us,” says Aurelija (15). She arrived at her foster family, at Aunt Anica’s and Uncle Zoran’s, when she was five years old. Andrea (16) and Vanesa (18), now young ladies, arrived as little girls, too.

Fourteen years ago, Aunt Anica, as the girls call her, and her husband made the decision to provide love, care and a warm family home for children without adequate parental care. This, she tells us, is her calling in life: “We raise all the children with love, my own children see our foster children as their brothers and sisters. We are in touch with all the children who were part of our family, they visit us during holidays, stay for a couple of weeks, we spend time together.”

UNICEF

In addition to school, the girls find time for numerous extracurricular activities. Drawing, singing, cheerleading, acting—where there’s a will, the girls tell us, there’s a way. All of them readily help Aunt Anica cook and bake cakes, but, just like all other children, tidying up their rooms is not one of their favourite tasks. Everything is just like in any other family, Vanesa says: “Aunt Anica talks to us when things are difficult, there is no judgement, only a lot of love and care. If a child has not received love from his or her parents, I think it is important that the child receives it from someone who wants to give that love, who wants to take care of them. This is so important for every child. You cannot get that in a children’s home. It is nothing like a family there.”

“In a foster family, you receive love and care, and that is the most important thing. Our Aunt Anica does all this out of love and it shows. It is better for children to have a family who provide love and care and not to stay in a children’s home; I would not want that for anyone,” Aurelija tells us.

Andrea agrees: “One of my friends is in a children’s home. It is much better to be in a foster family than in a home. Much better.”

Aurelija (15) sa svojoj udomiteljsku obitelj, teta Anice i stričeka Zorana, Andrea (16) i Vanesa (18).
UNICEF/Knežević Barišić

Tenderness, support in difficult times and all the ordinary little things in life make up a family home. But warmth and family support is only a dream for children growing up in institutions because, despite all the efforts of professional staff, no institution can offer the closeness and security that a family does.

“Children without parents know what it’s like. My parents left me. Foster care is something that offers hope for life, for everything,” Aurelija tells us.

In Croatia, more than 1,000 children are spending their childhood without a family, in children’s homes. Growing up in such conditions is proven to leave permanent consequences on children. Therefore, it is extremely important to provide girls and boys like Aurelija, Vanesa and Andrea with caring foster families to grow up in.