One Colwood couple has cared for 125 kids in care since they first became foster parents 25 years ago.
“When they’re in my home, they’re not guests. They’re my children,” says Sandy Case, president of the Vancouver Island (South) Foster Parent Association.
“The first time saying goodbye to a kid was a shock. It was a pain I had never felt before. Some people don’t understand the ability to love another child as your own. It’s hard on your heart, but it’s rewarding.”
Case first found her love of foster care when she welcomed three young kids into her home back in 1994. The arrival of the kids came as a surprise to her husband, Rob, when he arrived back from a rotation in the navy. She bundled up her own kids, six and 10 at the time, and the moment they saw each other on the dock, her kids yelled out, “Dad, look what we’ve got!’
The rest was history. Over the years, she watched many kids grow up. Some would stay for only a single weekend, and others would stay for as long as six years.
From countless nights rocking babies to sleep to getting another phone call that her kids were sent home from school, Case invested her life into her foster children.
“We’re not in the business of taking kids away,” says Case while holding an 18-month old foster child. “Our goal is to heal families. There’s always a plan to send a child home and to provide support to the child’s village.”
The 18-month old is able to see their parents once a week.
According to the Ministry of Child and Family Development, there were 4,169 (2,928 Indigenous and 1,241 non-Indigenous) children and youth in foster care in B.C., as of August.
Notably, there are different types of care other than just foster care. Some children will be taken care of by Designated Aboriginal Agencies and others will be placed into group homes. The total number of BC children in care is 6,149 (4,048 Indigenous and 2, 101 non-Indigenous), as of August.
The biggest struggle for foster parents is the time to take a break. For 15 years, she claims she didn’t take a break longer than a weekend to herself.
“There’s a lack of qualified people to provide adequate relief,” says Case. “Even though it’s tough, we keep going until we can’t anymore. Caregivers need a break too, and I’m lucky for my daughter because others don’t have that option.”
Sandy’s daughter, Lindsay, takes care of the kids when the couple wants to take a vacation.
“Every family is complicated,” says Case. “None of us are picture-perfect, but seeing the smiles on their faces at the end of the day makes it all worth it.”
October is Foster Family Month in B.C.