Rate of return to natural parents slides to 14.3%
The number of children in foster care has more than doubled in recent years, a lawmaker said Tuesday.
According to Rep. Choi Young-hee of the Democratic Party, a total of 16,608 children were placed in foster care in 2009, more than double the 7,565 in 2003.
Reasons for them being put into foster care include separated or absent parents (28 percent) and divorce (32.9 percent), Choi said during a parliamentary audit Tuesday.
However, the proportion of foster children who returned to their parents continued to decrease from 17.4 percent in 2007 to 14.3 percent in 2009.
As foster care services, offered by a state-run agency, are to finish when the entrusted children reach age 18, the lawmaker demanded that the government take follow-up measures to help them support themselves.
The number of teenagers whose foster care expires was 1,684 as of June and could reach 5,445 within one or two years, she said.
“It is good that the children are taken care of by a good foster family. But more important is that they stand on their own when they are grown up,” Choi said.
She also pointed out that the nation is suffering from lack of personnel to offer consultations despite the surge in children entrusted.
In Korea, one social worker is supposed to help 237 children on average. But there is one staff member per 50 to 60 children in the U.K., 25 in the Netherlands, 20 in the U.S. and 10 in Australia.
“Considering that the (state-run agency) National Foster Care Center aims to best protect children and support their reunion with parents, related personnel should be filled immediately,” she said.
By Lee Ji-yoon (firstname.lastname@example.org)