As the daughter of two parents with an adopted child, Fimki Swart-Pass knows the dangers of foster families. “It’s often in reciprocity,” she says. “What you give, you expect in return. And that doesn’t always work out.”
However, for Vimke, who trained as an educational consultant, and her husband Johannes Swart, a dancer by profession, the dream has come true now that they have expanded their family with daughters Danae (12), Beau-Isia (10) and Naely (9) of Four to six teenagers could no longer live at home. The difference lies in the fact that they are not an adoptive parent, but a “family home parent” to Damian (14) and Celine (16). Family homes are businesses run by parents, spouses, or friends. The couple is expecting two more guys before January.
“An adopted child becomes a family,” says Johannes at the pub in their kitchen diner with a view of the spacious courtyard in Duiven, the home’s central setting. “She should go to uncles and aunts’ birthdays, on vacation, and often have the same last name. Not with us. So we can adopt a less emotional attitude and look more professional at the questions the child asks. One weekend a month we’re free.” “And the child goes to his family and we do not spend the summer holidays together. We all know this in advance from each other.”
More convenient than a foundation
Family housing is increasing, although no one knows exactly how many homes there are in the Netherlands. In 2020, there were more than 500 detached family homes, with an average of 4 to 5 children living outside their homes. Usually the family environment is more favorable for them than the institution. Adoptive parents are supported by a fostering organization and sometimes a franchisor such as famillehuis.com, of which Femke and Johannes are affiliated. Gezinshuis.com currently helps 202 couples at home with all their finances and care. Johannes believes that the growth of family homes has to do with compensation which is much higher for family homes than for foster families. “Our initial process was also more intense: it took two years before we passed all the tests and found a suitable home.”
Now they live in the fields around Duiven in a large house with a meadow, barn, garden with a trampoline and a climbing house. Entrepreneur Johannes, who also has a dance school with Femke, sees all kinds of opportunities “from small camping to party location” on the site “but we are now focusing on the family home first,” he laughs. Their faith also plays an important role for him in the foundation of the house. In recent years, they have regularly housed children from their own network.
Damien (14) had their first child in September as “parents in the family home”. After his family could no longer take care of him, a shelter was sought near Arnhem. “We had matching conversations initially for two months with the trustee, behavior expert, biological family and finally Damien herself,” Fimke says. “Then he came to sleep with us on a trial basis to see if it was true.”
‘Just be true to who you are’
On the first day Damien came, he immediately said at the front door, “This is my house now,” says Johannes. “He wants to know everything, he asks all day. For him this is the first time he has lived outside the family. We get along well with the older, but sometimes we collide with the other two. “Why did we ever become a family home!” They call it. We talk about It’s at family meetings. Everyone gets to talk time. That’s so refreshing.”
Celine (16), who came from the Philippines four years ago and spent the past year in a crisis shelter, requires a different approach, says Fimke. “For example, we have a rule that cell phones are not allowed upstairs. But Celine needed her so much to keep in touch with her mom and siblings in other family homes, and we’re fine with her at the moment. Damien and our daughters think that’s unfair. Then we have to We explain to them that each child needs their own parenting methods.”
Every week, Fimky informs the caregiver of the children’s condition. “We have two goals: to help the child build his own identity, and to restore the network with the biological family. For example, when Celine’s grandfather recently passed away in the Philippines, we invited her mother and her siblings to come over to stay. The night before the funeral they all spent on the sofa-bed, and then watched together This was important to them. She is slowly emerging from her shell.”
The creed of the head of the family is to strive for maximum closeness with children while maintaining distance. “But of course you keep the kids closer and closer to your heart,” says Fimke. “When Celine got back on the last train after a day in Rotterdam, I didn’t get a moment’s rest in the evening.” If it’s up to Femke and Johannes, they have a long future with Celine and Damian. There should be apartments for living with the help of two young men. If they are older, they can go there as well. We hope to keep them with us until they turn 21.”
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