CASE. 40% of homeless people under 25 are former foster children: child welfare, a system “exhausted”

CASE. 40% of homeless people under 25 are former foster children: child welfare, a system “exhausted”

La prise en charge des enfants qui se retrouvent sans famille en France ne s’améliore pas malgré les nombreux signaux d’alerte. MAXPPP – Alexandre MARCHI

At the end of 2021, 380,000 children were placed in France by child welfare. Increasing reports, a glaring lack of places, children increasingly difficult to manage… The care of placed children is in great difficulty. Despite warnings from social actors, activists and communities, nothing changes and the situation is getting worse. The Rencontres d'Occitanie, organized this Thursday, May 16 at the Midi Libre headquarters, will open the debate.

The figures are edifying, the findings alarming, the alerts numerous and despite everything, the feeling "of always chasing this inexorable increase" as underlined by Véronique Calueba, vice-president of the Department of Hérault, delegate for solidarity and families.

Social assistance for children is in the red, in the regions as everywhere in France and the Covid crisis has further worsened the situation. "Reports and placements have seen a very sharp increase, perhaps this is due to an awareness of the difficulties that children encounter, confinement has also exacerbated family tensions", continues the chosen one.

In the Hérault department alone; 5,915 beneficiaries were identified in May 2024, including 2,800 entrusted to child welfare. Same observation in the Pyrénées-Orientales with 1,800 young people aged 0 to 21 entrusted to the Department in 2023 and an explosion of cases since Covid.

A finding that is all the more worrying given that social assistance for children was already very degraded before. Lyess Louffok, a former foster child who is now a child rights activist, has been alert for many years and denounces a system that is "out of breath".

Children left alone in hotels

Violence, lack of training, embezzlement… Journalist Sylvain Louvet denounced a series of dysfunctions in a documentary in 2019. Brigitte Macron then reacted and promised a childhood secretariat as well as an information mission to the National Assembly. These commitments were kept but the means did not follow.

Meetings in Occitanie to talk about it

The tragedy of foster children remains relevant today. After the suicide of one of them in Puy-de-Dôme, a parliamentary commission of inquiry is looking into the fate of these children placed under the responsibility of social assistance in childhood. It should deliver its conclusions in October.

This Thursday, May 16, from 6 p.m. at the Midi Libre headquarters in Saint-Jean-de-Védas, the new meeting of the Occitanie meetings will focus on the problem of their taking in charge and their monitoring.

Are invited: Claire Hédon, rights defender; Véronique Calueba, vice-president of the Hérault Department responsible for childhood and family solidarity; Aurélien Robert, lawyer and president of the Lawyer and Child association; Warrant Officer Léa Milheau, deputy commander of the Family Protection House unit and Sylvain Louvet, journalist.

Sylvain Louvet then made a second documentary. He points in particular to the placement of minors in hotels, due to a lack of places in homes. An emergency solution that takes children away from educators and can drag on for several years. The dramatic death of Jess, 17, stabbed by a 15-year-old in a hotel in Suresnes in December 2020, is a sign of this terrible failure.

Also read: Faced with the difficulties of social assistance for children, "we have the impression of being a little let down by everyone", deplores a lawyer

After the broadcast of the second documentary, the Taquet law is passed. It notably prohibits the placement of children in hotels. "We are still waiting for the implementing decree" regrets the journalist. Barely two weeks ago, the South union was still warning about the fate of two minors aged 10 and 12 placed in a shabby hotel in the North, due to lack of resources.

"Up to 12 arrivals in a weekend"

The Department of Hérault is confronted daily with this lack of places. "We cannot predict anything, the reception of minors must be unconditional. A focus is devoted to it, it is hyper saturated. We can have a dozen arrivals in a weekend, describes Véronique Calueba.

Once the emergency has passed, caring for children is also a real challenge. A call for projects for 750 places has been launched, but the community is facing difficulties finding land.

Same difficulty in the Pyrénées-Orientales where the chief of staff of the president of the Department is worried. « The Department's difficulty is that the number of children who need it is growing faster than the resources allocated. And for us, the real challenge is not to degrade reception conditions" confided Frédéric Monteil to L’Indépendant.

As for host families, they are increasingly rare. "Retirements are numerous, unlike candidates. Despite two recruitment campaigns and salary increases, we are struggling to find new ones", laments the’elected Hérault resident.

"Let's go all out"

However, the local authority is not giving up, the budget for the departmental plan for maternal and child protection has just increased to 230 million euros, "it is constantly growing, we are pulling out all the stops", assures Véronique Calueba.

For years, the Departments have also been alerting the State and asking it to invest in child protection. "Sarah El Hairy, the Minister of Families, is committed to working on the subject and providing relevant and innovative responses. On the other hand, she was unable to commit to the means. They are nevertheless necessary, "as the& rsquo;impact on society is considerable", as the journalist Sylvain Louvet points out. 40% of French homeless people under 25 have actually gone through child welfare.

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