One of the prominent orphanages in Erbil, known as Malle Xanda, which means “house of laughter” in Kurdish, is home to over 600 children. In the past, they were situated in Erbil’s famous Iskan Street, but have now moved to a better establishment on Shorsh Street, where several adjoined houses have been specifically built to accommodate for the different ages of children. This change was significant in their lives, they moved from a military-like hall where they did not have any privacy, sharing one large room resembling an antediluvian society rather than a progressive one. Despite moving to better and improved housing, under the directorship of Kurdistan Regional Government, the orphans still lack the necessary adolescent attachment, parental love and affection.
The general managing director of Malle Xanda has come up with a way to change this, with the help of two European academics, who conducted research in the Kurdistan autonomous region on the plausibility of establishing a foster care system as an alternative to the current orphanage establishment. A foster care system will remove children from isolated houses, where they have different carers, and unable to form attachments. Instead the children will live with families that are able to cater for their emotional needs, and be there for them on a consistent basis. According to Zaito Toffic Tahir, a foster care system will cost the government less money than keeping the children within orphanages. He believes by assessing the financial status of prospective foster families, the children will have a better standard of life and be able to be part of a family, instead of being just another child at an orphanage.
The foster care project comes with several perquisites, and requirements. Minors are placed in the care of certified caregivers, this service is provided by different institutions in Europe, but in Kurdistan the local orphanage might be able to have the capacity to act as a medium which monitors the health of minors placed in care. The foster care system was established in both United Kingdom and United States in the 1850s. In United States, the Children’s Aid Society started the “Orphan train movement” which aimed at getting orphaned children into foster care, as well as children who were homeless or abused.
Foster care homes are seen as a temporary solution for children without families to look after them, or adopt them. While children are in care, they receive the necessary attention that adolescents often seek, which is rarely provided at orphanages. This initiative will protect children throughout Kurdistan because it provides them with security, it simply does not place orphans within foster families but also children who are subject to physical or psychological abuse by their own families. It generates a culture that is protective of children’s right, and provides them with an opportunity to live life within a family that loves them.
Dr. Karzan Jamal Ali spoke about the foster care system, and how it enables children to form attachments. He added, “The children at orphanages often show signs of disorders, and inability to trust others”. He believes, like several other academics that a solution to this is to place children with foster families. The children in care are unable to form attachments to their carers because they don’t spend enough time with them. The carers work within a periodic timetable, and this creates mistrust, and eventually causes them psychological problems. This project needs more attention, and possibly further research to assess whether applying it within Kurdistan region is in the best interest of orphans.