Good kids who’ve suffered through their parents’ struggles are having to leave not just their homes, but the community they know, as child-welfare authorities struggle with a foster home shortage.
Simcoe Muskoka Family Connexions – the merged Children’s Aid Society of Simcoe County and Family, Youth and Child Services of Muskoka – has only 146 foster homes, while last year, it admitted 248 children into care, said the agency’s communications director Melanie McLearon.
“What ends up happening is something caused them to be unsafe at home and they had to leave their home. They need to go to a foster home in a neighbouring community.
“They leave their friends and their school and they have more instability when they need the supports around them,” McLearon explained.
In Barrie, there are 41 foster homes and 98 kids from Barrie are in care, she said.
“We’re very short of foster homes. We have had a lot of dedicated foster parents over the years retire. There’s also a social change and the same number of people haven’t come forward (to replace them),” she said.
“People are really busy and perhaps the community obligations (seen) in generations past isn’t the same. They don’t understand the need.”
McLearon added the agency’s best recruitment tool – foster families themselves – are fewer and further between and as a result, it’s tougher to attract new foster families. Friends and neighbours don’t get to see the reality of the work foster parents do: They help good kids who need a safe, stable home.
“There’s also misconceptions about children coming into care. It’s about their living situation and the struggles their parents face,” she explained, adding those struggles could include mental health setbacks, addictions or partner violence.
“(The kids coming into care) are like every other child and they need a place of safety and love,” she said.
McLearon added many people believe that kids coming into care are bad kids – “such a misconception” – she said.
Family Connexions also noted that 75 percent of children who go into a foster home return to their home within three months, which underlines the importance of having adequate homes in their home community so they can more easily attend school and maintain their friendships and extra-curricular activities.
Foster families receive a tax rebate as well as an allowance, training and professional support to assist them in caring for the children and youth they take in.
For more information, call 1-800-461-4236.