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Homo-cultural fostering, natural boundary of the protection of for-eign children


Background Today's social reality presents situations of discomfort which are very different from those in the past; this is due to the growing multiculturalism which is present in our society because of the arrival - occurring to an ever-growing extent - of lots of migrant populations. In such a way they arise new cultural issues, most of them related to different ideas of family, motherhood, fatherhood, relatives support and sometimes even abandonment.

Minors' rights to live and be educated in a family is first of all granted by law without any distinctions as for sex, ethnic group, language and religion, in the respect of minor's cultural identity and in compliance with the fundamental principles of the legal system.

Very often the birth and presence of children within a migrating family can represent a source of discomfort which, due to the lack of parental and friends networks as well as to the scarce presence or total lack of economic resources, have to face children's nurturing and at the same time work outside home for the whole day.

In some extreme cases of negligence, temporary or partial removal of children from their family seems to be the only solution in order to allow them live adequately/in order to provide them with an adequate living.

Since it's many years we're working in an association which has been caring of training and supporting families willing to welcome children in hard circumstances for years, we often had to face the difficulty of putting in touch families belonging to different cultures.


Method. These issues lead us and services connected to us to reconsider/rethink our methodology as regards both  foster families evaluation, matching and support, and outcomes evaluation.

Foreign children's families bring different cultural elements with them and very often  ask for these to be kept and respected, in order to accept services offered help and contribute to achieve positive outcomes.

Even though the number of children of migrant families is increasing, foster care seems to be scarce, whilst the number of this type of children places in care structures is no doubt becoming higher. This phenomenon is partly due to foreign families' mistrust in allowing Italian families care of their children, thus preferring the placemente of their children in care structures.

In spite of shared efforts by services and associations, very often this difference - foreign families' fear that people belonging to other cultures, which are in a privileged positions, can somehow change their children' cultural identity - prevented the provision of the best intervention needed.

For this reason intervention in difficult situations was tried, by prososing, as an alternative to care structures, homocultural fostering. This institute can represent for children belonging to different ethnic groups present in our territory a possibility to meet another family sharing a the same language, diet, religion and culture and which may welcome/help them in a difficult period of their life.

Resources activation within homocultural fostering cannot however exclude an awakening action aimed at:

-        informing about this fostering resource,

-        making resources availability emerge,

-        soliciting services approaches.


A crucial point requiring strong efforts is that related to the awakening stage within different ethnic groups, carried out by informing and disseminating information on services, values regarding children's care and protection as well as the respect of each cultural identity.

All these elements should be disseminated through the collaboration with important authorities of the different ethnic groups present on the territory and should be put into practice during discussions and exchanges.

In this stage, collaborating with associations, like that where I work - which are already well known and recognized by different ethnic groups as sources of information and social integration - would noticeably favour the approach with different ethnic groups and the weakening of families' mistrust towards public services.

The goal of our project is to organize (also in collaboration with other organizations already acting on the territory) a series of activities aimed at awakening families in the hetero- and homo-cultural fostering, which are divided into:

-        The search for group representatives of the different ethnic groups within a local area;

-        The search for experts on the topic/theme;

-         Discussion and exchange groups between the above points and public service professionals and associations representatives;

-        Informative moments organized within the different premises of the groups representative of all ethnic groups.


Evidence was also provided on the fact that making families get in touch with other families has the twofold advantage of hooking up these families not only regarding this problem but also to others; this would favour their better integration, providing them with the opportunity to become useful tools for the community where they live as well as for the Country hosting them, thus increasing their sense of utility  and therefore of belonging. Despite of the many difficulties faced in the process, we are convinced that many foreigners living in discomfort as regards their parental functions but who want their children to maintain their cultural identity - can find in our homocultural fostering project an efficient source, which is also respectful of their self-determination and at the same time coherent with the institutional frameworks on fostering provided by our legislation.

For this reason we wanted to investigate an experience the Municipality of Parma has been carrying out since some ages, which regards the welcoming of foreign unaccompanied children, and was carried out through the use of homocultural fostering as an alternative to the placement of children in educational communities, with long-term projects. The projects started to be developed in Parma in 2000 and demonstrated that homocultural fostering is an efficient strategy to welcome foreign unaccompanied children. In this way we cut welcoming expenses; moreover, this project lead to the diminishing of welcomed children's discomfort and disturbs.

As regards the city of Parma, the flow of foreign unaccompanied children was the following:


























Educational community








Source: "Minori stranieri non accompagnati:il Progetto Affido del Comune di Parma" (Foreign unaccompanied children (MSNA): fostering project of the Municipalità of Parma.


Positive outcomes related to this type of intervention made us reflect on the possibility of applying the homocultural foster care model even to the foreign children which are present in our country and face great difficulties within their families.


Key references

Bozzoli, C. & Regalia C. (2005). Migrazioni e famiglie.Percorsi, legami e interventi psico-sociali. Bologna: Il Mulino.

Cesareo, V. (200). Società multietniche  e multiculturali. Milano: Vita e Pensiero.

Fornari M. (2005). "Minori stranieri non accompagnati :il Progetto Affido del Comune di Parma", in AA.VV, Minori Stranieri non accompagnati. L'esperienza di accoglienza del Comune di Parma. Testimonianze e riflessioni, Collana "Documenti", Comune di Parma.

Valtolina G., & Marazzi A. (2006). Apparteneze Multiple. L'esperienza dell'immi grazione nelle giovani generazioni. Milano: Franco Angeli.


Contacts: Anna Maria Giarola, assistente Sociale, laureata in Sociologia, dottoranda in Scienze del Servizio Sociale, presso l'Università di Trieste, Via Porto 101, San Giovanni Lupatoto,Verona, E-mail: annagiarola@yahoo.it, Phone 340 6934844.



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