A sector often forgotten … Tuesday evening, a bill to improve the lot of minors entrusted to the Social Assistance to Children will be presented to the National Assembly. Indeed, from the lack of training of staff to violence in homes, shortcomings are regularly pointed out in the reception and monitoring of these some 300,000 minors. More than half are placed in an institution or with foster families, the others benefiting from educational initiatives.
The Secretary of State for Children Adrien Taquet will defend this text which provides in particular to prohibit the reception in the hotel of placed minors. A form of accommodation too often leaving young people on their own. But exceptions will be allowed “to respond to emergency situations or ensure the sheltering of minors”, which deplore several parliamentarians, as well as the associative network Repairs, which brings together former children in care. In committee, MEPs restricted this possibility to two months. According to the General Inspectorate of Social Affairs, between 7,500 and 10,500 minors are concerned, 95% being unaccompanied foreign minors.
Prevention and fight against mistreatment
The bill also introduces “strict controls” of the criminal records of adults in contact with children (professionals and volunteers), particularly in matters of sexual offenses. The establishments must have a policy of prevention and fight against mistreatment. Family assistants, who welcome placed children into their homes, will benefit from a minimum remuneration at least at minimum wage from the first child received. These professionals have recently mobilized for better working conditions. A national base for the approvals of family assistants will be created, in order to prevent an assistant who has lost their approval in one department from going to another.
Social services should systematically seek the possibility of entrusting the child to a person close to him before his placement in the ASE. The opinion of the child will be collected, added the deputies. Finally, the children’s judge may authorize the person to whom the child is entrusted to exercise acts of parental authority (such as authorization to participate in a school trip), without having to request this authorization on a case-by-case basis, in order to to simplify everyday life.
“Lack of ambition”
The bill is part of a broader government strategy, launched at the end of 2019 and endowed with 80 million euros in favor of this sector. The last law on child protection, in 2016, aimed at equal treatment throughout the territory in the face of disparities in care, and intended to stabilize the careers of these children. The co-rapporteur Bénédicte Pételle (LREM) ensures to be part of “continuity” and to act with “pragmatism”.
However, some voices on the right and on the left have already spoken out to criticize the “lack of ambition” of a text arriving “much too late” and “not up to the task”. “A subject as important as the protection of children would have deserved more”, deplores Alain Ramadier (LR), author with Perrine Goulet (MoDem), herself a former placed child, of a report in 2019 after yet another shock report on these children tossed about from foster families to hostels.
A quarter of the homeless are former children in foster care
The UDI is worried about the cost of the measures for the departments, which have had this competence over child protection since the first decentralization laws and devote 8 billion euros per year to it. The left is demanding “means”. The Assembly of Departments of France (ADF) for its part points to “a succinct bill, presented urgently”. Up to the majority, some also demand support for young people leaving ASE at 18, while nearly a quarter of homeless are former children in care.
Another provision of the bill is likely to animate the debates, concerning unaccompanied foreign minors: the compulsory use of the national file AEM (“support for the assessment of the minority”), which lists these young people in particular in order to identify more easily those who have filed requests for protection in several departments. “We must remove the possibility of performing bone tests to determine whether a person is a minor or an adult,” claims in particular the former LREM Guillaume Chiche, in unison with associations.