More foster parents needed locally

Heather Latter

Touted as rewarding experience
With roughly 60 children in care but just 35 foster homes across Rainy River District, the foster care co-ordinator with Child and Family Services here stresses there is a strong need locally for more foster parents.
“We are seeing more kids coming into care right now than we had before,” noted Christa Little.
“I’m not sure why, but that’s just the case.
“So the need for foster parents is great because we need a variety of types of homes,” she explained.
“All of the needs of our kids that come into care are different and unique, and we want to be able to match them really well with an appropriate foster home.
“The more homes that we have to be able to service our kids means better care and better matching,” she said.
Little noted foster parents come from all walks of life—single parents, couples who are working full-time, stay-at-home moms, and grandparents.
“So it’s really open,” she remarked, adding foster parents also can determine what’s going to fit in their home the best, such as ages and gender.
Little said they also can choose whether they are interested in fostering on a relief basis, which is just for very short periods of time, or short- or long-term foster care.
“The individuals really get to tell me what would be good for their own family,” she said.
People should consider becoming foster parents, added Little, because “the rewards of providing care to kids who are in need can be really enriching to yourself as an individual and your family.”
“There are certainly challenges that come along with fostering, but I think the rewards can outweigh that,” she reasoned.
One local foster parent, who wished to remain anonymous, testified to the rewards gained by helping children in care. She and her family have been fostering for about eight years.
“The rewarding part is seeing these children out in the community after,” she said. “They know you.
“You’ve developed a bit of a relationship with them and it allows them the opportunity to reflect on that.
“We live in a small enough community where you get the joy of seeing those kids and seeing them still grow up, and knowing you had a piece of their upbringing,” she added.
She feels there aren’t more families fostering because they might be intimidated.
“The unfortunate thing with foster parenting is you only ever hear the bad stories, you don’t ever hear about the good ones,” she remarked.
“And there are far more wonderful stories than there are bad.”
She said her family began fostering because she knew there were local kids who needed a safe place to go.
“They need some support and commitment from people who can give them an opportunity and a chance,” she explained.
“The circumstances are never their fault, so we have to keep on helping them. . . .
“You want them to move forward knowing that there is hope out there,” she stressed. “They can still be children and have a good life.
“So we just opened our home to that opportunity for these kids.”
The woman said it’s been a life-changing experience for her family.
“It’s been a commitment, but it’s one that I would never take back,” she said.
“My own family has learn things from it and I would highly recommend it to people.”
Christine Neilson spent many years in foster care from the age of four-18 and recalls her foster parents making a big difference in her life.
“I had some really great foster parents,” she noted. “They treated me like one of their own kids.
“And I still talk to them now,” Neilson added. “When you have really great foster parents, you build a relationship that is lifelong.”
She added they taught her values and how to become a successful adult.
“I took very important things from each of the homes I lived in,” she remarked.
While Neilson admits to “testing” some of her foster parents as a kid, she realizes now it was just a defence mechanism.
“I wanted to see how much they really wanted me there,” she said. “So the foster parents who do it for the right reasons shouldn’t expect it to be easy, but it is rewarding.”
Neilson noted she preferred families with no children at home, but knows others loved having the siblings.
“I didn’t feel that competition for love,” she recalled. “Outside of work, their whole devotion was to me and their time was for me.”
Neilson remembers many special moments with her foster parents—even things as simple as a hug.
“I never called them mom and dad, but I consider them extended family,” she remarked.
“I’m so grateful for the people who took time out of their lives to change mine.”
Neilson now is pursuing a career in social work and wants to give back by helping others in foster care.
Little said those interested in becoming foster parents can contact Child and Family Services for more information.
The individuals would learn about the process of becoming a foster parent and fill out an information form.
“The home studying has a lot of components to it, which includes foster parents having medicals done, having police checks done, and having a home safety inspection done,” Little explained.
“But the meat of it is really the conversations occurring between myself and them.
“It’s really looking at individuals throughout their lifespan,” she noted. “We want to know where they came from to where they are now.
“A lot of people have had challenges and things they have overcome in the past—and that’s never a bad thing,” she added. “We really want to look at the experiences people have had and how that has brought them to where they are today.
“We are all shaped by our past and our histories, so part of the conversations is just that—getting to know them,” Little said, noting the whole process usually takes a few months to complete.
There also is a training component to the process.
Little said they look for people who have a capacity to care about others, who really enjoy parenting, and can really accept a child without having to change them.
People who are willing to work as a team and show a commitment to the child’s stay in foster care.
“Take the time to phone,” the anonymous foster parent urged. “The staff is fantastic and they are really committed to bettering children in our district.
“We are in dire need of homes,” she stressed. “We need help and we need people to step up and commit to even helping with one child.
“It really makes a difference.”
“It can bring so much into the children’s lives,” echoed Little. “You are looking at kids and families in our community that need some help and we’re able to provide that for them.
“It’s like providing that soft place to land and offering those children a nurturing home until a permanency can be decided,” she reasoned.