People of all backgrounds in Elmira are being asked to open their hearts and homes to consider becoming a foster parent.
Family and Children’s Services for the Waterloo Region will host an information night in Elmira next week for those curious about what fostering children entails.
Recruitment supervisor for FACS Waterloo Region, Ingrid Bell, says there’s an ongoing need for foster homes in the region. Approximately 500 children are in care and there are just under 200 foster and kin homes.
“We decided we would focus in on Elmira. We know it’s a very caring community and we’d certainly like to be able to speak with people directly there and let them know what our needs are and how they can help,” Bell said.
Children do better when they’re placed with family, so the goal is always to place them with their family when they can’t be with their parents. When that isn’t an option they seek placement in a foster home.
“What we’re trying to do is narrow the gap, the deficiencies between the number of children and the number of foster homes. We’re trying to increase the number of foster homes so that we can have better outcomes in terms of placement matches for children,” Bell said.
She says they’re able to find a placement for every child that comes into their care right now, but they’re trying to create a larger pool of resources to have more opportunities for making matches which meet the needs of the children.
They’re looking for people who have a passion for children and are committed to well-being and safety.
“We’re seeking from singles to couples, young families, empty-nesters, people from different cultures and backgrounds, we’re open to sexual orientation as well. It’s as diverse as our community is, that’s the diversity we’re looking for in foster parents. And we hope that we can get some of that from Elmira as well,” Bell said.
Carol and Duane Martin of Elmira have been foster parents since February. They saw it as an opportunity to help children in need.
“We were respite parents for my sister, they’ve been foster parents. That’s been a good four years that we were respite, just on a family basis. And then we had friends from church, they became foster parents too,” Carol said of how they first got interested in the idea.
After looking into it they decided to give foster parenting a go.
They still have two of their own children at home and Duane says their children usually enjoy the extra kids in the house.
“It’s a relatively easy way to fill the need,” Duane said.
He says they’ve even developed relationships with the parents of some of the children they’ve fostered. They’ve been foster parents to six children so far.
“I’d say the biggest highlight at least for me is to be able to see the children go back to their birth parents,” Duane said.
Carol agrees it’s been fulfilling for them to watch the children gain a sense of security, an integral part of fostering. And the gratitude they receive from birth parents after the children are able to return home has been special.
“I feel that there’s a negative atmosphere around children’s services and we were very favourably impressed with the training,” Duane said. “It changed our perspective of children’s services entirely. The one major thing for us was that there was a lot of emphasis put on the fact that the time children spend in foster homes is there’s an attempt being made to return them back to the birth home if at all possible.”
Carol notes a special moment for her was when one of the children they’re currently fostering gave her a good night hug and said ‘I love you’ after several weeks of being in their home.
“That was quite something because I’m supposed to sort of be taking the place of someone for right now. It was touching,” Carol said.
A staff member will give a presentation at the information night and a foster parent will share their experiences.
Some of the common questions they hear are what types of supports are there for foster parents and what are the steps to become a foster parent.
People who are approved to be foster parents have access to a resource worker, support groups, ongoing training and are financially reimbursed.
The process to becoming a foster parent includes an application, an interview and a home safety check. They then attend a nine-week training program to learn a basic foundation of the children’s needs and how they can best meet those needs, while working with the child’s family.
The ultimate goal is reunification of the child with their family.
Bell hopes the event will help them establish relationships with the Elmira community and start some people on the process of becoming a foster parent.
“I think for families that have become part of the program there’s a sense of fulfillment and a sense of purpose. To see a child thrive in their care is wonderful for families. When you see a child who’s been separated from their family and they’ve experienced a lot of challenges and trauma, when a child begins to blossom in foster care because their needs are being met, that’s quite exciting for families,” Bell said.
The Foster Parent Information Night will be held at the Elmira Library on Sept. 20 at 6:30 p.m. You can register by calling 519-576-0540 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.