Geel Foster Family Care
Geel Foster Family Care is a residential care system for psychiatric patients who live in an ordinary family and share daily life with that family and society. It is community-based healthcare in its most natural way, an example of “lifting life up above disease”. In 2023, this form of residential care and the tradition from which it originated, was recognised by UNESCO as an intangible heritage of humanity.About Foster Care
Geel Foster Family Care builds a century long tradition and rests on three pillars
The foster family that autonomously makes the choice to take a boarder into its heart and home
The community that creates a tolerant and accepting atmosphere so that it is possible for the boarder to build a valuable life away from an institution
The professional team of OPZ Geel that coaches the family and supports the boarder in all aspects of life.
Deep roots in history
From the thirteenth century onwards, “madman or lunatics” as they were called at the time, came to Geel on pilgrimage at the tomb of Saint Dimpna. Dimpna, according to an ancient legend, was a king’s daughter who was murdered in Geel by her insane father and was buried here with her confessor.
‘Madman’ were sent away everywhere, because of their strange, unpredictable behaviour. Here in Geel, they could stay. Because of the legend and the grave of Saint-Dimpna located here, people of Geel considered it their duty to receive the ‘madmen’ and allow them to spend nine days in penance and prayer in the church. The pilgrims found peace and many stayed. News of Geel as a merciful refuge spread and more and more psychologically afflicted people arrived. The ‘sieckenkamer’ built next to the church soon no longer sufficed to house pilgrims and the citizens took them into their homes. In the first centuries, the church authorities organised lodging of boarders with citizens; in later centuries, it was the city authorities who did so. For centuries, ‘boarding houses’ were passed on from generation to generation. Thus, organically, without grand theories or plans, foster family care emerged as care by the community.
From 1851, professional support was built out, including the construction of a central hospital, the employement of psychiatrists and care staff and the provision of all kinds of support initiatives. Since 1991, Geel Foster Family Care has been part of the OPZ Geel, a psychiatric care center of the Flemish government.
In 2001, in a report on mental health care, the World Health Organisation WHO described Geel foster family care as a “best practice” and an excellent alternative to “institutional psychiatry”.
The essence of Geel Foster Family Care
Five basic principles that form the strength of Geel Foster Family Care have remained unchanged throughout history.
Years of tradition
Boarders in Foster Families
How to become a foster family?
If a family wants to apply to become a foster family, home visits are planned to investigate if they meet all the requirements. Their motivation, living conditions and willingness to cooperate with the OPZ Geel are evaluated.
What is Foster Family Care
Geel Foster Family Care is a residential care system for psychiatric patients who live in an ordinary family and share daily life with that family and society. It is community-based healthcare in its most natural way, an example of “lifting life up above disease”.