Former orphans empathize as today's foster parents in Turkey
Zeynep Bilgehan – ISTANBUL
About 6,000 children are currently under the protection of foster parents in Turkey. 42 of these foster parents stand out as having also spent their childhoods in similar conditions, with many growing up in orphanages.
Although foster parenting is not well-known in Turkey, the Family Ministry is working to expand the foster care system to reduce the number of children in orphanages, which currently stands at over 14,000.
Şeref Köşük, 44, has opened his home to two foster kids. Already married with three children, Köşük decided to take a child under state protection into his own care five years ago, recalling the conditions of the orphanages where he spent eight years after losing his parents.
“I wanted to be permanently close to children in orphanages. When my son [currently 10] turned five, I told my wife I wanted to be a foster parent,” Köşük told daily Hürriyet.
Sevgi Köşük recalls the day when she and Şeref visited an orphanage and saw 14-month-old Dilara for the first time. “When we saw her, our hearts melted. It was an occasion for festivity the first day she came home,” Sevgi said.
Five years after taking Dilara under their wing, the Köşük family visited the orphanage again, this time to adopt baby Emir. “We have dedicated our lives to our children,” Şeref Köşük said.
Emine Arıkan, 30, is another foster-child-turned-foster-parent. She herself spent 10 years in various state orphanages during her childhood. She recalls those years as “happy,” though laments a “lack of love.”
Three years ago, Arıkan and her husband Oğuzhan adopted baby Ayaz. “I used to see foster parents coming to the orphanages [in my childhood] and I used to say ‘I should also be a foster parent in the future.’ The children in orphanages crave family love,” Arıkan told daily Hürriyet.
The Arıkan couple have been married for five years – a legal requirement when adopting a child in Turkey – which motivated them to apply to be foster parents.
İbrahim Yalgın, 47, another foster parent who spent years in an orphanage, said he wanted to “pay back” the state once he got a decent job and was earning his own income. “I have made donations. But I was not content. My wife heard about foster parenting. And two of our children approved the idea,” Yalgın said.
In 2012, the Yalgın family took in the six-year-old Kiraz. Kiraz had lived with her mother for three years in prison before being put under state protection. “I tell my daughter, ‘I am like you, I know what you have gone through.’ I help her with everything, including her lessons,” İbrahim Yalgın said.
Kiraz visits her mother in prison once a month, and says she is happy in her new house. “I had friends at the orphanage, but here is better. First I was shy, but then I got used to it,” Kiraz said.