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Family Matters

Making a House a Home: Insight into Foster Parenting

May 1st, 2015

Submitted by Alberta Human Services

Stacey* and Sam* each grew up in families that fostered children and now the couple has school-aged children of their own. When the couple decided to settle in Fort McMurray, they knew they wanted to become foster parents. They know that some families can use extra help and some children need safe, healthy homes in times of vulnerability. Right now, there aren’t enough foster parents to meet the needs of these children in Fort McMurray, creating opportunities for Albertans like Stacey and Sam to make a difference.

Stacey says, “I like knowing that when there’s a child with me, I know that that child is safe…It’s a good feeling knowing someone’s happy and safe with you.”

When asked how fostering fits into their lives, Stacey says, “Fostering works for us because we look after children who are the same age as our children and go to the same school.”

Speaking about her kids, Stacey says, “Our kids have adjusted really well. They like having other children their age in our home. They treat [the experience] like an extended sleepover!”

When it comes to the challenges of fostering, Stacey said that can depend on the needs of the children placed in their home. For their family, fostering children who are the same age as their kids helps them balance everyone’s needs and allows them to continue with their routines.  

In the beginning, Sam and Stacey felt awkward when people asked them why there were different children living in their home. The couple wanted to respect the children’s privacy, but as more people in the community got to know them as foster parents, they could share their experiences proudly.

Stacey and Sam credit Human Services staff with providing the support they needed to foster and making their decision to continue easier.  “The communication is amazing. Any issues that may arise are dealt with immediately,” says Stacey. “When the children require supports like counselling or childcare, they are provided. The workers are really on top of it.”

If you live in the Fort McMurray area and think you would make a good foster parent, find out more atwww.humanservices.alberta.ca/foster-kinship-care/14908.html. If you have additional questions, contact Laura Niven at 780 743-7234 or laura.niven@gov.ab.ca.

*Names changed to protect personal privacy.

What is foster care?

Foster Care is when children are placed in temporary homes with people they may not have previously known. Children may stay in a foster home for a few days or many years until they can return to their biological parents, extended family, adoptive parents or become adults. Foster parents receive financial compensation, training and support for the care they provide foster children.

How many children live in foster care?

There are about 3,700 children living in foster homes and another 1,600 children living in kinship homes in Alberta. Kinship care involves placing children in the homes of relatives and family friends.  In Fort McMurray and area, there are currently 33 children living in foster care and 3 children living in kinship care. Approximately half of foster children have had to be placed outside of the region away from their families and communities due to a lack of foster parents.

Becoming a Foster Parent

We need more families who can provide safe, stable and caring homes for children in care.

Eligibility

All kinds of people can make great foster parents.

If you meet the following criteria, you can apply to be a foster parent:

  • You must be a resident of Alberta.

  • Cohabitating applicants must have been in a stable relationship for at least 12 months prior to applying.

  • You must be at least 18 years old. The maximum age will be determined by the best interests of the child.

  • You have not had an additional child in the past 12 months and/or are not currently expecting an additional child through pregnancy or adoption.

  • You must be physically and mentally capable of meeting the child’s needs with no major illness or trauma in the past 12 months.

  • You need to have your own residence (with your own address) separate and apart from other caregivers.

Process

1.       Initial contactto get connected to a worker who will be assigned to help you through the application and matching process:

    • local Child and Family Services office. For a location near you, visit: http://humanservices.alberta.ca/services-near-you/15010.html

    • local Delegated First Nations Agency. For a location near you, visit http://humanservices.alberta.ca/family-community/15540.html

    • Call 1‑888‑643‑1889

2.       Your application will include:

    • three personal references

    • medical reference

    • criminal record check including vulnerable sector search

    • intervention record check

    •  

3.       Training: Foster parents complete caregiver orientation training and a thorough screening process before children are placed in their home. Caregiver orientation will give you an overview of what to expect when caring for a foster child. This includes child development, special needs of children in care, supports provided to foster parents and helping you decide if fostering will be a good fit for you and your family. Kinship caregivers also receive training. There is a similar screening process, but licensing is not required.

4.    Home Study: The home study determines if the applicant can provide a safe and suitable home for children and addresses a variety of topics such as family history, parenting skills and home safety.

5.    Licensing:Upon approval, you will be issued a foster home license and assigned a foster care support worker who will provide ongoing support and training. All homes are licensed annually.

6.    Funding:  Foster parents and kinship caregivers receive supports and basic maintenance funding to help them care for the children in their home.

Where can I find more information?

For more information about fostering in Fort McMurray and area, you can contact Laura Niven at 780 743-7234 or laura.niven@gov.ab.ca.

For more information, please visitwww.humanservices.alberta.ca/foster-kinship-care/14908.html

Or, view the “Foster Care Handbook” athttp://humanservices.alberta.ca/documents/foster-care-handbook.pdf

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