Magdalena María Palau Fernández
This profile was prepared when Magdalena María Palau Fernández was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2000.
The New Idea
While children are sometimes taken in by extended families, foster care is not a familiar concept in Paraguay. At the same time, Paraguay is a family-centered society with considerable sympathy for children befallen by misfortune. Magdalena expands on this fundamental compassion to gain acceptance to introduce temporary care as a first step in caring for children who are forced out of their homes. A critical element of her approach is that a child's foster care take place in his or her own community and in a family with economic circumstances similar to the family from which the child originally came. Magdalena builds gradually on the concept of extended family, first placing the abandoned child with a family by offering extra resources for care and auxiliary needs, then building a network of additional individuals, groups, and families to lend care, depending on people's training and ability, and, lastly, develops a long-term situation strategy, usually depending on a relative or friend of the child's surrogate or foster family. Her strategy relies on keeping children in their own homes, despite where their house is, and on cultivating a sense of belonging and family so that a child can maintain a sense of permanency and develop self-esteem.