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30 Jan, Monday
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Montreal Families

Foster parents provide a safe haven for kids

The numbers are both sad and sobering: close to 600 children are living in foster care provided by Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, an agency that handles fostering for anglophones in Montreal. The children have been taken from their family homes usually because they were abused or neglected. Like all children, they need love, attention and care. Thanks to people who become foster parents, these young people can begin to rebuild their lives.

Colette Roussy, 49, has fostered 30 children over the last 12 years. In her early 20s, she agreed to serve as a foster parent for a relative. This gave her first-hand experience of how fostering can help children in need. Although married with three children of her own, Roussy felt she still had the energy, time and desire to foster, so she and her husband underwent the required screening process.

Since then, the couple has adopted three foster children; a 10-year-old girl and two boys, ages 6 and 23 months. All are of mixed racial background and have health problems, so Roussy spends many hours a week taking them to doctors and other specialists. She is honest about the challenges facing foster parents.

Children might suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome, have lagging language skills or developmental delays due to early neglect or have been victims of sexual abuse. As well, foster parents may have to handle calls or visits from the biological parents, who still have some visitation rights.

Cathy Carroll, Batshaw’s foster care program coordinator, says while the agency tries to keep families together — by providing counselling and other services — sometimes the home situation is just too harmful for the children.

 There are four types of foster care:

  • Regular, short-term care that can last from 60 days to two years or longer.
  • Emergency, where foster care families are available to take in a child on a moment’s notice, seven days a weeks, 24 hours a day until a more permanent situation can be found.
  • Weekend respite, which provides a break for the biological or foster families.
  • Fostering a child with the intent of adopting.

Currently Batshaw has about 180 families who foster but more families are always needed. “The situation with placement is so unpredictable that it is always good to have too many [foster parents] rather than too few,” Carroll says. “Summer and holiday periods are difficult because foster parents take vacations too.” As well, there is a real need for homes accepting babies and toddlers as well as black or bi-racial families willing to adopt.

People interested in fostering undergo a screening process and, if accepted, receive training and ongoing support from Batshaw social workers to help them take care of a child. Families also receive a tax-free stipend to cover the cost of care.

A foster family can agree to provide one or more types of care (for example, only offering emergency care). What matters most is the desire to help and the willingness to provide for a child in need.

To find out more about foster parenting, go to www.batshaw.qc.ca.

 Facts about foster care

Who can be a foster parent:

  • Singles or couples
  • All races and cultures
  • Working families and at-home parents
  • Families with small children, older children or childless
  • Applicants must be over 25 years of age, be Canadian citizens or landed immigrants and have no criminal record. They must have a source of income. Couples must have lived together for at least three years.

Children who go into foster care:

The children range in age from newborns to 17. They usually have a history of neglect, physical or sexual abuse and have been through various traumatic experiences. Many have developmental delays, behavioural and attachment difficulties and medical problems such as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.

Applying to foster a child:

Anyone applying to be a foster parent must go through a series of checks and assessments to ensure the safety of the foster children. These include: police checks for all individuals over the age of 18 who live in the home; medical health check up for the caregiver; Youth Protection checks for all minors in the home; at least three personal references per application; employer information and reference request.

Most assessments take about six to eight months to complete and the assessment process consists of an in-depth series of both individual, family and/or couple interviews.

Information courtesy of Batshaw Youth and Family Centres

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