Family & Children’s Services is looking for families across the district to make a difference in a child’s life by stepping up to become a foster family.
“Currently, we have about 45 foster homes across the district and we have close to 70 kids in care,” noted Christa Little of FACS.
“So number-wise, you can already see that you’re looking at homes that have more than one [child].
“We want to be able to match the children with the families in order to meet their needs, rather than just looking at where we have a bed available,” added Little.
“We want to be able to have a good match,” she stressed.
Little said recruiting new families to foster care has been a challenge given many families nowadays have both parents working and they don’t have a lot of extra time.
But she noted FACS has children with all kinds of different needs—and each foster home can provide something different.
“We need foster families that are willing to do fostering, whether it’s short-term or long-term,” she remarked, noting some foster families can be there to provide relief to other ones—such as only fostering on the weekend when another family needs a break.
Trait-wise, Little said prospective foster parents would be someone who really likes kids and enjoys being a parent, be willing to learn new skills, and be someone who can be compassionate, empathetic, and “really provide a stable loving, nurturing environment for kids.”
As well, they would have to be somebody who can work as part of a team.
“Because we have a team environment here, you’re going to be working with a lot of people within the agency,” Little explained.
A foster family can be anybody from someone who is single or has no kids to people with kids, grandparents, or those who are retired, she noted.
“Foster parents have said to me it’s simply things like knowing that they’ve made one small difference,” Little said of why people step forward to become foster parents.
As well, foster have parents have told her that part of what makes the role enjoyable is watching the children grow and develop while they’re with them, watching them smile, teaching them new experiences, and giving them new opportunities.
“I just love kids. I love the feeling of seeing these kids succeed, watching them meet goals that we all want them to achieve, and wanting them to have a happy, normal life,” remarked one local foster mother, who wished to remain anonymous, who has served as a foster parent for about eight years.
“It can be intimidating,” she admitted. “There’s often a stigma around foster parenting, but it really is rewarding.
“You can change these kids’ lives and give them opportunities that they’d never necessarily have.
“I just think it’s imperative that people that have good homes step up and give these kids an opportunity at life and give them a chance,” she stressed.
“I’m a huge advocate for foster parenting. It’s so important that these kids have opportunities to succeed.”
There are challenges which come with becoming a foster parent, Little conceded, such as having children come to your home that you don’t know and having an agency involved in your life.
“A lot of the children are coming from difficult situations, and they need a lot of help and they need a lot of love—and that, in itself, can be a challenge for foster parents,” Little explained.
“But I think, again, the fact that we have longevity with our foster parents speaks to the fact that it’s the rewards.”
There have been foster parents with FACS who have fostered anywhere from six months to 20 years, she noted.
There are a lot of supports in place for foster parents, added Little, such as herself or the worker assigned to them who is involved from day one to help with the process of transitioning into a foster home.
“There’s also support services, in terms of children’s mental health, child development services, that we offer here at the agency that we’re able to get established really quickly for kids,” Little said.
As well, there’s help in getting things set up with the school, setting up counselling, and being there to provide day-to-day advice, answers to questions, and guidance.
Foster parents also are entitled to breaks when they are needed, Little noted, and receive a per diem for the children under their care to cover such things as basic room and board, as well as other child care expenses that are reimbursed by FACS.
Little said there are some clear guidelines throughout the process of becoming a foster parent, as well as requirements outlined by the provincial ministry, including such things as interviews, questionnaires, medical checks, criminal record checks, home inspections for safety, and training.
But a large part of the process also is simply meeting with the family and getting to know them, in terms of their background, history, and who they are as a family and as people, Little said.
Those interested in becoming a foster parent can contact Little at 274-7787.