Foster Care in Tanzania

The United Republic of Tanzania is country in East Africa formed as result of the union between the then Tanganyika (now Mainland Tanzania) and Zanzibar on 26th April 1964. There are two governments that oversees the governance of the United Republic of Tanzania: The Government of the United Republic of Tanzania which oversees all union matters (for both mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar) and non-union matters for the mainland Tanzania. On the other hand, there is the revolutionary government of Zanzibar in charge of all non-union matters in Zanzibar.

Children affairs, including provision of alternative care services for children deprived of their family environment, fall under the non-union matters. Thus, there exists separate legal regimes and institutional frameworks to deal with and provide services related to children for mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar. The information on foster care given below is limited to Mainland Tanzania.

Provision of alternative care services for children deprived of their family environment relies greatly on children’s homes or institutional care. However, the government is recently taking efforts to reduce the institutionalisation of children in need of care by adopting strategies aimed at strengthening community-based and family-based care including care by relatives, foster care, fit person and adoption.

Kinship care or care by relatives plays an important role in providing care and protection for children who are without parental care. Though the law recognises the role played by kinship care, this practice remains informal and seldom regulated by state authorities. The social and economic hardships (including severe poverty) facing the Tanzanian society has affected this traditional safety net for children who are without a family environment paving way to over-institutionalisation of children in need of care.

The Law of the Child Act, 2009 and the Foster Care Placement Regulations, 2012 defines foster care or fosterage as a temporary measure provided on a voluntary basis by the family or individual who is not related to a child to discharge care and protection to the child. Thus, in Tanzania, foster care does not include care by relatives or kinship care. The practice of foster care, as defined and articulated in the laws above, is still underdeveloped and limited in its use. To date, foster care is greatly used to facilitate adoption of children. The law on adoption requires a prospective adoptive parent to have fostered a child intended to be adopted for at least six months (for Tanzanians) or three months (for non- Tanzanians) before lodging the application for adoption in court.

Thus, foster care is mostly used as prerequisite to adoption rather than an independent/self-standing alternative care option. This is a discrepancy between the law and practice. However, initiatives are underway to increase the utilisation of family-based care which could pave the way to adoption of mechanisms to improve the implementation of foster care services as one of the family-based alternative care options.

Veronica Buchumi

PhD Candidate, University of Bayreuth, Germany

IFCO Board Member