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Family Based Foster Care Developing in Chiang Mai

Nam Fon (name changed for confidentiality) rushed into the after school centre, sobbing her heart out. “My mom just got arrested and I don’t know what to do,” she cried. We came to find out her mom, like so many other undocumented single parents, had resorted to illegal means to support her family. As an American, my first instinct was to call social services and have her placed in foster care for the two months her mother would be incarcerated. I soon found out that no such system existed in Chiang Mai at the time. After many fruitless phone calls, the staff realised that not only was formal foster care not an option, there were no options for short term care in the NGO sector either. Eventually, Nam Fon was able to stay with an American family and receive the individual love and support she desperately needed, while continuing to attend school and our after school programme.

Short-term care for children was clearly a need yet to be met, for surely Nam Fon was not the first student in the history of Thailand to have this experience. But, what could we do about it? Fast forward five years to 2016 when our former team came together with the idea to find families who could provide short-term foster care for children in crisis situations and continue to support the family by providing a family strengthening program after reunification. This idea was formed in the wake of a terrible tragedy involving a little boy we knew called Jojo who had died as a result of child abuse after being placed in informal foster care with a relative who had no experience raising children. As a result, we named our new project in his honour, and Jojo’s Sanctuary, a place where children and families can come for safety and assistance, was born.

As we started developing this project, imagine our excitement to learn that the Thai government had already begun making strides toward a family-based system to care for orphaned and vulnerable children. The pilot project in Chiang Mai has been running successfully for several years, but to this point, solely focused on long-term care for children who will not be able to return to their family for one reason or another.

There have been years of studies done on the harmful effects of children who grow up in orphanages, including lack of access to education, attachment disorders, psychological problems, increased risk of teen pregnancy, HIV or suicide, and lack of ability to integrate into society as a whole. You can read one such article here

We want to be a part of the solution, by not simply opening another “children’s home” but actually providing a family environment where children who have experienced trauma can be supported in their individual needs, continue their education and return home to their family with continued support from us and their community.

Jojo’s Sanctuary, as a project of the Family Connection Foundation, will work alongside the Thai government to educate and empower Thai families to provide short term care for children in crisis, work with the families of children receiving short-term care to ensure children grow up in a safe and caring home after reunification, and work in communities to create teams of community leaders who will be able to implement child protection strategies in their area to protect vulnerable families and children from being separated. While running these programs, Butsaba and Jay, a married couple who are founding members of Jojo’s Sanctuary, will become foster parents themselves, being the first family registered with the Thai foster program to specifically provide short term care for children for up to one year.

To help launch this program, we are asking for assistance from the public to join us in changing the way vulnerable children are cared for by helping us furnish the location that will double as a home and training centre for families. In our first week, we raised 25,000 baht from cash and online donations, and our campaign runs until October 1. You can read more about our campaign and programming here

People can choose different levels to donate at, each level eligible for a reward connected to our team. These range from t-shirts specially designed for the campaign to hand crafted clothing, art and wood carvings. Check out our trailer and help us build up the next generation of Thailand.