In May 2007, Buckner Peru and Peru’s National Comprehensive Family Welfare Program (INABIF) signed an agreement to develop a foster care program. On March 10, 2008, Buckner Peru made history when officials from the Ministry of Women and Social Development and Buckner placed eight Peruvian children into the country’s first foster families. Prior to this significant event, there was no foster care in Peru. Nearly seven years later, children are thriving in families in ways that would have been unknown to them without the foster care option.
Their foster care/kinship care model utilizes extended family members to care for the children. The program offers families the opportunity to serve as foster parents as well as foster-to-adoptive families. The children that generally come into foster care through this program are 4 to 17 years of age.
Claudia Leon, director of Buckner Peru, has continued to strengthen the relationship with INABIF and UNICEF, working with the government to secure the role of foster care in Peru’s child welfare system and working to make foster care a part of public policy. Buckner Peru currently partners with the government, providing half of the staff members that make foster care possible in Peru.
“In the beginning, we had no idea of the magnitude of what we were doing,” says Leon. “We just started doing it.” But then they began to see that it was changing the reality of the future generation in Peru. Leon says, “You see how much a child can change – mentally, psychologically, spiritually, intellectually – with the love of a family.”
One of the first Peruvian foster families is the Chavez family. Their experience changed the life of the fostered child, but it also changed the heart of a mother. Thirteen-year-old Briana has lived with her foster family for six years. Her birth mom and foster mom, Violeta Chavez, have been friends since Briana was born. Her mom struggled with bipolar disorder and could not keep her, so she asked Violeta to care for her. Violeta, who was also Briana’s godmother, agreed.
Since she’s gone to live with Violeta and her family, they’ve seen amazing growth. She often has trouble understanding where she came from and why, but for a 13-year-old, she has started to work through some of these issues.
When she reflects on her experience as a foster mother, Violeta shares that she is grateful even for the challenging parts. She has seen a lot of positive changes and growth in herself as well as Briana and says, “It has been important and transforming for me as a person, as a woman, as a mother and also as a wife.”
The foster-care work in Peru is changing the reality of Peru by changing the lives of Peruvian people within it. Children are given the love and affection of family care and the entire family is benefiting as a result.
“I’ve been working with homes and kids for almost 10 years,” says Leon. “I have seen so many lives that are lost, in a way. I have seen so many children without hope. I have seen so many children who won’t become who they were meant to be, basically because of lack of love, lack of affection, lack of care. You always read about how important a family is for a child, but then when you live it firsthand, you understand so much about how important it is.”