Teens in foster care need a home

By Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Foster care is a way of providing a temporary home for a child who is unable to live with their family.

To deliver the services needed, Kenora-Rainy River Districts Child and Family Services (KRRCFS) is looking for more foster families willing to provide a home and the critical support needed for foster children facing a troubled period in their life.

Michelle Tighe, a resource worker at KRRCFS, said there has been a greater need for foster homes for teenagers.

“There’s always been a need,” said Tighe.

“I would say our hardest age group to get a family for would be teenagers. And I think people feel intimidated by teenagers, but they’re such an amazing group of young people,” she said, adding that she has found it rewarding raising a teenager herself.

“We need foster families for all ages. But there are groups that are particularly hard to find homes for.”

In recent years, the agency has also seen a change in the family make-up which has included stay-at-home foster parents, same-sex parents, single parents, or foster grandparents, uncles, and aunts who have all opened their home to working with foster children.

“We don’t seek out specific types of families, it’s just the dynamic of who our foster families are has changed,” she said.

In lieu of family structure, Tighe said that local homes continue to be the most important because it creates consistency in the foster child’s life. With a local home, the child can stay connected to their school, family, and any activities that they may be involved in.

Ideally, the children will stay with other family, friends, or people that they are comfortable with, otherwise known as a “kinship family,” but when that is not an option, Tighe said the foster child is placed with “resource families” who have opened their homes to their agency.

The end goal, Tighe said, is for children to eventually return to their original family—something that both the agency and resource families keep at the forefront of their mind when placing and receiving children in foster care.

“Families struggle with many things [like] addictions, mental health, issues of domestic violence, which can lead to a variety of reasons why children come into care,” she said.

“Foster Care is meant to be a short term solution with reunification to a child’s original family being the main goal that all team members work towards and support, including resource families. So it’s always our rule, and the rule of resource families, to help when families can’t care for their children.”

In her role as a resource worker, Tighe walks foster families through the entire process. She said that Ontario has a standardized process in order to become a foster parent which includes extensive interviews, background checks, and mandatory training that ensures the foster family is well-suited and well-equipped.

“We spend a great deal of time talking with people about their life experiences, their history, their motivation to want to open their home to children or our community,” Tighe said.

“There are really specific requirements to becoming a foster parent. What we look for through the process is a family that can be supportive, compassionate, empathetic, and have a willingness to work as a team because the role of the resource family is a very important role in the team, to work with the [biological] families.”

From start to finish, the length of time to complete the interview and training process will vary. For example, a family with biological children of their own may have many other commitments and less flexibility scheduling meetings.

“It just depends on what’s going on for that particular family on how fast the process can take,” Tighe said, adding that the agency will work with people at their own pace to accommodate the needs of the family while completing the necessary home-study work.

While every foster child’s story is unique, child welfare research has shown that unemployment, food insecurity, and lack of housing can lead to crises that lead to involvement from Children’s Aid Society, and that not meeting a child’s physical, emotional, and social needs on an ongoing basis can lead to serious problems later in life.

“Don’t be afraid to call and ask questions,” Tighe said. “If you think that fostering is something that you might be interested in, we can connect people with experienced foster parents to help answer their questions or fears. We’re always looking for resource families for children of any age, but we really have a need for people willing to care for teenagers.”

“So often, we carry so much guilt about our mistakes,” Tighe said. “Although we can’t change what’s happened, we can change the ending to our story. Every day is a new start. We can change the chapters in our book.”

For inquiries about the process to become a foster parent, contact Michelle Tighe at michelle.tighe@krrcfs.ca or 807-274-1065 ext 5030.