A foster family story from Bosnia and Herzegovina: “Alex will always be a part of our family”

Alex and his foster father Mirza

In the 15 years he spent  growing up in an orphanage in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Alex had a roof over his head but no one to protect him. He never knew what it meant to feel safe, spent the first 15 years of his life living in fear. He had three meals a day but he was always hungry for love. He now lives a loving foster family.

Mirza Agić has a big personality and a big heart. When his foster son, Alex, comes home from college, he fusses over him, making him a sandwich and encouraging him to eat. He knows how to make Alex laugh, patting his own, large round tummy and comparing it to Alex’s slim frame. A semi-retired couple with a grown-up son of their own, Mirza and his wife Meliha have provided the warm and loving home Alex needs to feel safe – something he never experienced in the 15 years he spent  growing up in an orphanage in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The life at the orphanage: “Alex had three meals a day, but he was always hungry for love”

During the 15 years Alex spent at the orphanage he had a roof over his head but no one to protect him, he had clothes to wear but they were never his own, he had three meals a day but he was always hungry for love. The people who were paid to care for Alex and the other children just stood by and watched as the older boys beat the younger ones, day after day after day. Mirza says when Alex first came to live with them he was in a bad way, both physically and emotionally. He was thin, withdrawn and uncooperative. It took time for Alex to calm down and learn to control his temper. By helping his new son to come to terms with his traumatic childhood, Mirza says he came to love him. Fostering children is a tradition in Mirza’s family and it’s something he’s passionate about. He is angry about the way that children are treated in orphanages. ‘They are inhumane,’ he says, because one member of staff cannot care for 30 children properly and give them the attention they need.

“Alex will always be a part of my family”

Since Alex has been living with Mirza and his family, he has caught up with his education and is now at college, training to be a cook.  Mirza is  proud of the progress that Alex has made. Technically, now that Alex is 18, Mirza’s official responsibility for him is at an end but his commitment to Alex is steadfast. He says Alex will always be a part of his family.  “What I want for my oldest son, is the same thing I want for Alex. I can’t let him go on the street. My obligation, as long as I am living, is to take care of Alex. This is not acting, everybody knows me, and my heart is big”.

 

Hope and Homes for Children’s story started in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The story of Hope and Homes for Children started in 1994 when a retired British UN Commander, Mark Cook, and his wife Caroline visited the Bjelave Children’s Institution in Sarajevo, Bosnia.

With a focus on family strengthening and foster care for those children who cannot remain within their biological families, to date we have successfully worked with over 1,500 children and their families. Over the year, over 2,300 social workers and child protection professionals have benefitted from our specialist training programmes, gaining essential knowledge and skills in alternative care, child protection and the implementation of deinstitutionalisation.

In Bosnia we have successfully influenced the development of a range of alternative care services such as foster care, small group homes and young adult support programmes. We have worked closely with government and civil society in the creation of relevant policies, service standards and national action plans to underpin and consolidate reform of the child protection system.

What can I do to help? Join a global movement

It is the State that is ultimately responsible for children’s rights. However, private and institutional donors have a key role to play by reallocating development assistance to support the transition from institutional to family-based care. You can fundraise for Hope and Homes for Children or explore our donation options to help us make sure no child is left behind. Join a global movement working to see the elimination of orphanages in our lifetime.