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Huff Post’s article with stories from Foster Care activity

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Three children escaped war and rediscovered love thanks to foster care

The stories of little Andy, Rami and Zaid who, through METAdrasi’s activity “Foster Care for Unaccompanied Children”, remembered again what love and affection mean.

By Angeliki Kougiannou

Andy is just two years old. As a newborn, in the summer of 2017, he was found alone in a maternity hospital in Athens. His mother, of Afghan origin, has not been located yet.

The Public Prosecutor for Minors, acknowledging that it would be best for little Andy to be placed, as soon as possible, in a family environment, so as to avoid institutional care, assigned temporary custody to METAdrasi, through the activity “Foster Care for Unaccompanied Minors”. This activity was initiated, for the first time in Greece, in February 2016, aiming to provide family care to unaccompanied minor refugees.

Straight away, METAdrasi sought, in cooperation with the competent district authorities, the appropriate family to undertake Andy’s care. Thankfully, a solution was found without delay, as a family that had already been included in METAdrasi’s register of foster parents and had been certified, according to the legal procedures, by the authorities of their district of residence, expressed their will to offer short-term foster care to little Andy.

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A case of foster care that turned into adoption

“Leda and Angelos are a young couple. It is touching that they offered to become little Andy’s foster parents, knowing that there was a possibility that his mother would show up and that they would have to be separated from him”, tells HuffPost Greece METAdrasi’s social worker, Angeliki K.

The first meeting among the prospective foster parents and the baby took place at the maternity hospital. Leda and Angelos visited every day and spent time with Andy, until he started to recognise them and feel close to them. Chemistry among them worked immediately.

“It is impressive how they managed to communicate with him through caresses, songs and smiles”, mentions Angeliki. Thus, it was not long untill Andy was in his new home. Throughout the whole procedure, they had by their side METAdrasi’s social workers, psychologists and members of Guardianship Network for Unaccompanied Minors.

On Andy’s first birthday and while his biological mother had still not been located, Leda and Angelos decided to apply for adoption to the competent district. The new year arrived with a wonderful present: the application for adoption had been accepted! So, 2019 found Andy in his new family and Leda with Angelos embracing their happy, lively and tender son, whose laughter, as they say, illuminates their home.

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Foster care and a bittersweet goodbye

The story of Rami and Zaid is a little different. They are two brothers from Syria, 7 and 9 years old, who left together with their uncle from Aleppo, in order to reach their father who was expecting them in Sweden. Their father had to work hard for two years, so as to gather the money required for the children’s journey. However, the journey was extremely difficult and dangerous. When they reached Athens, their uncle disappeared and the children were left alone and homeless.

METAdrasi was notified by the Prosecutor and immediately members of the Guardianship Network for Unaccompanied Minors started looking for the father, while a team of the Foster Care activity started looking for the appropriate family to undertake their care temporarily.

The family was soon found: Marina, Aris and their 14-year-old daughter, Argiro, opened their home and welcomed the two children. Soon, the father was located in Sweden, to his great relief, as he had been very worried for his children and had been trying to locate them.

“We discussed with him for hours”, explains METAdrasi’s social worker Maria D., “in order to explain the procedures that have to be followed. We explained to him about foster care: what it is exactly and why it is the ideal temporary solution for his children. At first, he was very reserved, as he was afraid he would lose custody, but when he was reassured that there was no such danger, he gave his consent for the temporary fostering. At the same time, METAdrasi’s Guardianship Network for Unaccompanied Minors initiated the procedure for family reunification”.

Four months later, the two children, accompanied by Marina, Aris and Argiro, travelled to Sweden. There, the family that had embraced them while they were alone, handed them to their father.

“The moment was extremely moving”, said Argiro to METAdrasi’s people, when she returned from their journey. “This was the moment that this Syrian family had been anticipating for months. The father was crying, the children were crying, we were crying! On one side we were happy, on the other we were sad. I knew from the start that one day Rami and Zaid would go to their father to live with him, but I didn’t expect that I would feel them so much as my family too. Now, we often talk, with messages and video calls, they tell me their news, they tell me words in Swedish, they show me how they prepared for their father a recipe we had taught them. I am very glad that they are happy and I feel like I have “my own people” in Sweden!”

*The names of the children and the families have been changed.

**In the framework of METAdrasi’s “Foster Care for Unaccompanied Minors” activity, residents mainly of Athens have offered hospitality to 75 children. The activity, which is being implemented in co-operation with local prosecutors and competent state social services, was initiated with funding by EEA Grants, through Bodossaki Foundation and since August 2016 is supported by UNHCR, with co-funding by the European Commission. More information at METAdrasi’s site. Information for prospective foster parents: at the telephone numbers 214 100 8700 and 214 100 8717 and by email at foster@metadrasi.org.

Read the article in Greek.

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