Data indicates that foster parenting, once an uncommon practice in Turkey, has grown rapidly in the past 15 years thanks to a government-sponsored campaign to raise awareness of the state of orphaned children.
A ministry official said the number of children staying with foster parents was only 500 in the early 2000s, but this number has reached 4,350 as of 2015. Nusret Soylu, a senior official in the Ministry of Family and Social Policies, says that although the state can provide children without families everything, affection was something that only a family can truly give to a child. He said that it is notable that children placed with foster parents showed significant improvement both in their education and in their behavior.
The rise in the number of foster parents is attributed to a project spearheaded by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's wife Emine Erdoğan and sponsored by the government. The Ambassadors of the Heart project was launched in 2012 to motivate families to be foster parents both in Turkey and for Turkish children abroad, both for orphans and children from dysfunctional families with divorced parents. The campaign largely raised awareness of the importance of foster parenting. Soylu says the number of foster families rose some 40 percent in the past five years. "The public perception of the issue played a key role in this increase. We strive to leave no children without a family. The state can do everything for a child, we can give them very comfortable houses, address all their needs, but the affection of a mother and a father is something else," he says.
Soylu says that foster parenting differs in Turkey's east and west. He said that the relatives of the children usually take care of the children in the east, while temporary foster parenting by non-relative families is more common in the western regions. Children are assigned only to families from the city they live in, the city where they are born and have relatives in. Istanbul, İzmir and Ankara have a large number of foster parents as well as the smaller cities of Hatay and Kahramanmaraş in southern Turkey.
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