Need for foster families increasing
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | July 20, 2017
Kathy Yandt dropped off the teenager she is fostering at camp recently. The two had issues before the girl left and didn’t part on the best of terms. But when she returned and walked into Yandt’s home she asked, “Can I have a hug?” and the two shared a long embrace.
Yandt speculates the youth had time to reflect on what she had at home when she was away.
“When they do something like that it comes right from the heart and is very meaningful,” Yandt shared in a recent interview with The Highlander.
A single parent, Yandt fosters two teenaged girls for the Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society.
She is a rare breed.
This month, the society is launching a campaign called ‘fostering changes futures, join us today’ to address an urgent need for foster care homes across the region, particularly for teens, but also children and sibling groups.
In 2011-2012, the society had 146 homes. In 2016-2017, despite increased demand, that number has plummeted to 108 and only 10 will take children over the age of 12. Of those 10, six are currently full and four already have one child placed with them.
As of March 31 this year, there were 231 children in care and 29 of them over the age of 12 have to live in group homes or outside of paid foster care, not associated with the society, because of the shortage.
The society did not have statistics for Haliburton County alone.
Wendy Gordon, resources supervisor with the society, says that’s not ideal since some teens have had to leave their community, away from family, service providers and schools.
“Adolescence is challenging enough. We have these children and we’d like to keep them in the community,” Gordon said.
The goal of the campaign is to recruit 20 approved foster families by the end of March, 2018 with six willing to support children over the age of 12.
The society’s Tania Nanni said the shortage is due to some foster care parents retiring but they always have a need for homes that will take teens. She speculates that is because “their needs are becoming more complex” and that potential foster carers worry about what it might look like to foster a teen and if they will cope.
But Nanni said there is support available, including extensive training, as well as a process to find a teen that would fit their home.
The goal always remains to try to re-integrate foster children into their own families.
Yandt is into her 13th year of fostering. Another woman The Highlander spoke with, Andrea McGilvray, has been fostering for seven.
“I would say that every child comes with a unique set of needs or issues that need to be dealt with and it would be very similar to raising your own children,” Yandt says.
McGilvray has had a long-term placement of a younger child and says, “it’s a journey, it’s going to be incredibly rewarding and it’s going to be a stressing experience.”
However, she encourages people to consider it because “these children are valuable. They are going to share themselves with you and teach you things about yourself.”
Both stress it isn’t something they can do alone either, relying on the society, family and friends.
For more information, follow KHCAS on twitter (@KHChildrensaid) or Facebook (KHChildrensAid), check out the information on their website, khcas.on.ca, or contact Tania Nanni, 1-800-661-2843, ext. 1221 at KHCAS who will answer your foster care questions.
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.