Building a Brighter Future: Fazendo História Changes the Lives and Livelihoods of Brazilian Foster Children
Nós Group program participants (adolescents 14–19 years old) gather for an activity
“The Nós Group is helping us plan our lives according to the reality around us, opening doors for those seeking courses, classes, work, and everything that can help in our development.” — Tayná, in her second year with Grupo Nós.
Published on October 23, 2023
In Brazil, over 30,000 children (from infants up to age eighteen) have been separated from their families due to violence, neglect, and abuse. Sadly, only 5% of children are placed with foster families, while the remaining 95% reside in government-funded institutions and NGOs. These children remain in shelters for extended periods while the legal system determines whether they can return to their biological families or become eligible for adoption. While by law this process should take a maximum of eighteen months, in reality, after 7 years old, the chances of being adopted are very low and many children end up staying in these shelters until they obtain their legal majority at age eighteen. Once young adults turn eighteen, they are required to leave the shelter, even if they do not have a job or residence lined up, resulting in many of them ending up on the street.
The Fazendo História Institute (IFH), established in São Paulo in 2005, aims to support the development of children from Brazilian shelters and promote family fostering. They collaborate with various organizations, city councils, and courts to encourage a cultural shift in foster childcare, emphasizing emotional and cognitive development. IFH offers programs such as staff training, therapy, youth support, advocacy, and life story recording. To date, they've helped over 19,000 children and partnered with 1,500 foster services, training 8,000 volunteers and 15,000 professionals. They've also expanded their knowledge sharing beyond the communities they serve, making their methodologies available for replication elsewhere in Brazil and in other countries like Costa Rica, Portugal, and Argentina.
A foster family cares for a baby through IHF's Foster Family Service
Nós Group participants learn life skills like cooking
Partnership with CAF America
Over the last five years, CAF America funded grants that have played a crucial role in the success of IFH by supporting a diverse range of activities. Our grants originally focused on organizational training, but in recent years, have expanded to supporting IFH’s Foster Family Service and “'Adolescents and Autonomy'' project. Funding has supported various aspects of these programs, such as salaries for psychologists and social workers supporting children in foster care, advocacy professionals, and communication materials to raise awareness about foster care systems and attract new volunteer families. Additionally, the grants have covered expenses such as materials for teaching activities, cultural visits for adolescent program participants, computers for collective use, baby essentials, and health exams for babies in family foster care.
Most recently, grants facilitated through CAF America have focused their support on "Nós Group", a program designed for adolescents in foster care shelters, helping them transition into independent adult life and fostering a sense of community belonging. Lasting for three years, this program provides fifty adolescents individual weekly guidance, participation in themed groups, and city cultural outings to address the unique challenges of this life stage.
"[Nós Group] helped a lot in terms of employment; I used to be very insecure, and when I had to speak, I would cry out of shame (...). [The technician] helped me make my first resume" —Program Participant Young K
A group leader embraces a teen during Nós Group
Teenagers bond and play bingo while attending Nós Group
The group imparts valuable professional, money management, citizen, and housing life skills, offering a strong network of support and care. CAF America resources supported five key areas of this program:
Five Key Programs Supported
- Employment: Preparing resumes, defining interests and skills, job referrals, and interview preparation;
- Housing: Identifying housing options, costs, and planning for leaving institutional services;
- Financial Education: Teaching money management and planning;
- Citizenship: Mentoring on using public benefits, public health services, public education, public spaces, transportation and more; and
- Identity: Group discussions on themes such as racial identity, gender, sexuality, and other relevant topics for this age group.
IFH was also able to create an advocacy program to influence public authorities to institute policies supporting young people leaving the foster care system, where none currently exist.
In the past three years, IFH has expanded and improved foster family services, with plans to increase such programs by 20%. They achieved this by training professionals, conducting research, creating an online platform, organizing workshops, and selecting and training new foster families.
"When my daughter was taken into care, I was very angry. I didn't understand what was happening, felt like disappearing, and was all alone. Today, I understand that the best thing that happened in 2019 was her placement in care. You don't just take care of my baby; you take care of me and my son too. This way, I am able to strengthen myself to be able to take care of my children again. My life is changing, and now I am no longer alone."
— Pasc-Gustavo, father of a baby that returned her biological family after being in a foster family
In 2022 alone, 946 children and adolescents directly benefited from their programs, while 5,730 benefited indirectly. They placed 26 children in foster families, assisted 24 biological families, and indirectly benefited 168 families. Furthermore, 2,614 professionals received training, 401 indirectly benefited, with 448 active volunteers, 100 partner services, 3,090 books distributed, seven libraries established, and 535 training kits and guides distributed. They executed thirteen public and private projects in five states.
IFH continues to encourage the emotional, cognitive and mental development of children and adolescents in order to strengthen them so that they can transform their lives and break the vicious circles of abandonment and violence to which they were subjected.
Profile of Impact
Andreia Barion, Executive Director
Andreia Barion is the Executive Director of Instituto Fazendo História. She works along of 60+ other staff members and 700+ qualified and committed volunteers each year that work directly with children and teenagers in the various programs.
With CAF America´s support, we have achieved tangible improvements for our organization, and as it's an ongoing endeavor, there is much more it can contribute to our cause. Among the many gains, we emphasize increased knowledge among professionals about Foster Families Services. After completing the course:
- 96.3% of participating professionals rated their knowledge of foster family service parameters, principles, and methodologies as sufficient or excellent
- 77.8% felt they had sufficient knowledge to implement a service
- 100% of participants considered the course important or very important for gaining knowledge about Early Childhood
- 96.3% of participants reported that the course contributed significantly or moderately to their level of interaction with other stakeholders, increasing networking and collaboration among professionals in the fields
- 100% believed that the course improved their practices in foster care services.
Our research was pivotal in improving foster care services in Brazil. We used the gathered data to create a comprehensive online platform, which is set to become the primary resource for foster care family services in the country, providing valuable insights and a practical guide for implementation.
We are very proud of our Foster Family Service. The Foster Family Service provided by Fazendo História ensures the right to family and community life for children and adolescents separated from their original families. This program specifically caters to babies from 0 to 6 years and places them with volunteer families. These host families offer temporary shelter to these children until they can reunite with their birth families or, if that's not possible, are adopted. Fazendo História emphasizes that keeping young children in a family environment during their early years is more effective and beneficial than institutional care. The institute actively participates in a national campaign against the institutionalization of babies and is actively involved in advocating for and implementing this approach in São Paulo. Other aspects of this program include three additional key components:
- Technical Training: Providing training and oversight to professionals in foster care services, family court personnel, child protection workers, and more.
- Research: Identifying challenges in introducing new foster care services in various regions of Brazil and offering guidance for establishing these services.
- Information: Creating an online platform to disseminate comprehensive information and best practices to public administrators, legal practitioners, foster care professionals, and foster families.
There are several challenges in working with adolescents and young people, with program engagement being one of the main ones. These difficulties are multifactorial and involve issues such as dealing with psychological factors, overcoming learning gaps, coping with a lack of support from the support network, addressing educational deficits, and developing skills necessary for the job market, all of which are exacerbated by psychological trauma.
In the next five years, we're making significant operational changes: establishing a monitoring and evaluation department, strengthening institutional development, and adjusting fundraising sources. These changes require investments in Team Management, Communication, and Fundraising:
- Team Management: We'll invest in leadership training for our coordinators to enhance team effectiveness
- Communication: We aim to produce an institutional video and improve public relations efforts to boost exposure for advocacy and fundraising
- Fundraising: We'll focus on raising non-tax-incentivized resources from companies and foundations, restructuring programs - with clear objectives, goals, and pricing, while also developing expertise in grant writing for international foundations
About the authors
Margot Cunningham serves as CAF America’s Officer of Marketing and Communications. Her responsibilities include planning, creating, and implementing marketing and communications strategies, with a focus on building awareness of our mission and engaging prospects and donors with long-form content and event opportunities.