Foster Care

A large institution, such as a children’s home, no matter how equipped or how well staffed, can never replace the love and support provided in a family environment. There is nothing that can replace the family environment in terms of contributing to child’s growth, development and overall well-being.

Numerous studies in the fields of neuroscience, psychology and pediatrics show that raising children in a caring family environment provides the best results in terms of their physical, cognitive and emotional development. When placed in institutions at an early age, children may have difficulty developing healthy emotional relationships because they cannot form a close relationship with staff in the same way they would with a loving family. In the absence of the kind of emotional and physical contact that only a loving caregiver can provide, children in institutions are at risk of delayed psychological, emotional and physical development. When it is not possible, unsafe or not in a child’s best interest to live with their own family, foster families provide the best alternative care. They provide more opportunities for one-on-one interaction, protection, support and security. Living in a family environment offers a sense of belonging and identity. It offers opportunities to develop social connections in the community.

Foster care includes basic protection and 24-hour care for children and adults who do not have their own family or do not have living conditions in their own family.

Foster care can be general, specialized, temporary, interventional or kinship care.

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Foster care as a non-institutional form of care has been available in the country since 1961 – it was known as “fostering”.

Since then, the number of foster families is constantly growing, and the network is gradually expanding – earlier foster families were concentrated only in Skopje, but today foster families are available in 13 cities across the country, including in Prilep, Makedonski Brod, Krusevo, Kriva Palanka, Veles, Kochani, Probishtip, Bitola and other cities.

As of December 2022, 302 children are cared for in 172 foster families.

(Note: this number includes children in SOS Children’s Village who are cared for by persons registered as foster carers).

There is a need to establish a strong network of foster carers covering every city in the country to ensure that children deprived of parental care continue to live in their familiar environment, an environment that reflects their cultural background, and to ensure that children maintain a relationship with their biological parents/family. Considering the different profiles of children at risk, their different ages and specific needs regarding the duration and type of placement required, the number of foster families needed cannot be precisely determined. However, we must not forget that the ultimate goal is for children to return to their biological families, and if that is not possible – to be adopted, as circumstances allow.

We need to identify foster carers in each municipality so that they are ready to provide care and protection for children and facilitate the maintenance of the connection with the child’s family, community and cultural background.

According to the Law on Social Protection, the following categories of beneficiaries can be placed in a foster family:

  • a child without parents or without parental care, until they develop the ability to live and work independently or until they complete secondary education at the latest, if there are no other opportunities for care
  • a child with social or upbringing-related issues (neglected or abused)
  • a child with issues with social behavior
  • a person with a moderate or severe mental developmental disability referred to training for work or productive activity
  • a person with the most severe degree of disabilities in mental development
  • a person with a permanent physical disability
  • an elderly person
  • an adult with a physical disability or a person who cannot take care of themselves.

The foster carer provides a safe home, a place where the placed user will have adequate care, a safe environment, security, love, warmth, conditions appropriate to the users’ age and developmental needs, until their return to the biological family, adoption or reaching legal adulthood.

I want to become a foster carer

Criteria for choosing a foster family are:

  1. Age

A foster carer can only be a person who is of legal age. The age difference between the foster carer and the accommodated person should be at least 18 and at most 50 years old. As an exception, the specified age difference between the foster carer and the accommodated person does not apply if the child is placed in a relative foster family or if it is in the best interest of the child.

  1. Health condition

When choosing a foster family, the general state of health of the applicant and all family members is taken into account.

  1. Eligibility

When choosing the foster family, the eligibility of the candidate and of all family members are determined by the Foster Care Support Centers, which submit a report about it to the competent center for social work.

  1. Material conditions

When choosing the foster family, the income of the family is taken into account, and more specifically, income which have been achieved in all respects in the last three months before submission of the request and which should be greater than the determined amount of the guaranteed right minimum income.

  1. Housing conditions

Living space and equipment in the foster family should correspond to average equipment of a family apartment, according to the number of members in the family.

  1. Training of caregivers

The preparation, assessment and training of the foster family is carried out by the Foster Care Support Center.

A foster family provides care in a safe and stimulating family environment for a child who cannot be cared for by their biological family.

A foster family provides the child with: accommodation, care, general and personal hygiene, nutrition, necessary clothing and footwear, health care, development, upbringing and education [Center for Social Welfare can help provide school supplies depending on needs]. They help the child to maintain regular contact with thier biological parents or other close relatives [in accordance with the decision of the relevant Center for Social Work] and help to meet the child’s cultural, entertainment and recreational needs, respecting ethnic origin and religious customs .

After acquiring foster status

The support of the person and the foster family is a continuous activity which directly responds to the needs of the person and the foster family, with the goal to fulfill the tasks of the plan for the protection of persons, strengthening of competencies of the foster family and meeting the specific needs of the person.

Support includes:

  1. counselling services;
  2. material support;
  3. psycho-social support;
  4. educational programs to improve the competencies of caregivers for supporting children’s development;
  5. individual support for the person and the foster family and work for overcoming problems;
  6. coordinating the social support network for children and foster families;
  7. other forms of support according to the needs of the person and the foster family.

The professional worker from the Foster Care Support Centers  intensifies its support in crisis situations and or in the period of preparation of the child for school, choice of secondary school, as well as in the period of independence prior reaching adulthood.

The foster care professional provides special support to families who they take care of children at risk, children with specific needs and people with disabilities.

After a preliminary assessment by the Center for Social Work for the need for placement in a foster family, together with the Foster Care Support Centers, they select the most appropriate foster family. After the assessment, if you are selected as the most suitable family, the Foster Care Support Center prepares the specific person who should be placed with you.

The assessment and decision to place a beneficiary in your family is made by the Center for Social Work and the Foster Care Support Center after a previous assessment of the needs and potentials of the child, degree of exposure to social risk and the potentials and competencies of your foster family.

The foster family should support and maintain the child’s relationship with their biological family, if it is in the interest of the child, but always with support and cooperation with the Foster Care Support Center and the Guardianship Authority (Center for Social Work). The Center for Social Work or the Strategic Authority determines the dynamics and the way of realizing the child’s contacts with the biological family.

Foster care allowance

A foster carer who has cared for a person in their family for at least fifteen years, after reaching 62 years of life for a woman, or 64 years of life for a man, who is unemployed and does not use the right to a pension on any basis, has the right to permanent compensation for a foster carer. The right cannot be exercised if the social work center has unilaterally terminated the contract for placing a person in the foster family. The amount of the permanent compensation for the foster carer is MKD 8,000 per month, in line with the increase in the cost of living for the previous year, published by the State Statistics Office in January for the current year. The manner of exercising the right to the permanent allowance for a foster carer, the form of the request and the necessary documentation for exercising this right is prescribed by the minister.

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There is a significant difference.

When adopting a child, parental rights are permanently transferred to the adoptive parents and with that come the permanent obligations that come with parenthood. On the other hand, foster care is temporary care. The custody of the child remains with the state. A foster carer provides a child with a safe home in which the child receives care until the child is returned to the biological family, adopted, or comes of age. Also, the foster carer receives a monthly allowance to cover the cost of caring for the child.

Another difference is that adoption is a one-time process to ensure the best match between parents and the child, and the bond with the child is lifelong. The relationship with the Social Work Center continues until the family is well settled. Becoming a foster parent is also a one-time process, but there is an ongoing relationship with the Center for Social Work and the Foster Care Support Center because the custody of the child remains with the state; this means that the Centers monitor the foster family and work to ensure that a permanent solution is made in the best interest of the child.

The similarity between fostering and adoption is that both provide a warm and loving family environment.