The holiday season is a time for families to get together, but there are still many kids needing a stable home environment.
Foster parents are needed through the Comox Family. Right now, they have about 60 children and youth in care throughout the region.
“We’re always seeking new care providers to meet the needs of our kids,” says Laurie Sheldon, a member of the Ministry of Children and Family Development resource team.
Caregivers can be extended family members like an aunt or uncle, as cultural compatibility is an important consideration. Families are compensated for expenses.
Ultimately, the goal is to have the child return to their own family if possible, but in the meantime, the foster parent program is looking for people with patience and understanding who can provide some predictability and adaptability at home.
Betty is a local foster parent who has taken in many kids over the years. (Betty’s name has been changed to protect confidentiality.) She’s been helping as a foster parent for 15 years and was in part motivated by her own experiences as a child.
“I wasn’t really treated like a person,” she says. “I treat every child like a person…. Their voice is heard.”
Anyone over 19 in B.C. can apply as a caregiver, and Sheldon encourages people with a strong support network of family and friends to consider it. After expressing interest, people then get a visit from a social worker and an assessment of their home situation and parenting skills.
The program is also looking for a range of people who can meet the diverse needs of the kids, including care for teens and sibling groups, as well as children with culturally specific considerations. The goal is to help the kids find out who they are and support them.
“To be a foster parent, I think you’re a certain individual,” Betty says. “We need those people.”
Sheldon points out the caregivers are also provided with the resources to help them in their new role and get continuous learning to meet a child’s needs.
“Caregivers don’t do this alone,” she says.
There are behaviour analysts to offer help, and the program also provides education for parents around challenges such as FASD, autism, trauma or other factors that might affect the child’s development.
“We need to do education all the time,” says Betty. “It helps me work with the child better.”
With COVID, they have also looked for online learning options, though confidentiality, as always, is a key consideration. Along with more formal support they receive, the parents themselves look for ways to support each other, so that no parent is left to foster in isolation.
Betty has no regrets over her many years as a foster parent.
“I find it very gratifying,” she says. “I think I’m making a difference…. When they speak, we can listen.”
As far as how to get involved, Sheldon says there is no one route. Sometimes they contact the ministry directly, or hear something at a school’s parent advisory council meeting, or may know a foster parent.
“People come to us in all different ways,” she says.
If someone is interested, they can contact Sheldon at 236-936-2036 or email Laurie.Sheldon@gov.bc.ca. There is also information online at fosterhope.ca