Premier John Horgan struggled to hold back tears Thursday as he announced the details of B.C.’s first increase in pay in 10 years for people caring for developmentally disabled children and adults.
First announced in Finance Minister Carole James’ budget Feb. 19, the increase provides foster parents an extra $179 a month to help caregivers cover food, clothing and shelter for clients of Community Living B.C., starting April 1. (Schedule of rates here)
The largest increase is for relatives, typically grandparents, whose compensation increases more than 70 per cent to bring it up to the same level as foster parents. That increase was recommended by Grand Chief Ed John, a former children’s minister who called for it to help Indigenous children stay in their families instead of being adopted or put in foster care outside their communities.
Children and Family Development Minister Katrine Conroy said she found out there had been no increases for a decade when she attended the annual general meeting of the B.C. Federation of Foster Parent Associations.
“They were taking money out of their own pockets to provide services to children that we are responsible for,” Conroy said at an event at the B.C. legislature Thursday.
She also heard stories about the plight of relatives caring for children.
“An indigenous grandmother was taking care of three children, and she told me she couldn’t afford to take care of all three kids. So she had to give two of her kids up to foster care, and she said she felt incredibly guilty,” Conroy said. “She felt guilty about the child she kept, because she couldn’t provide him the same opportunities that the foster parents were providing.”
The budget includes $45 million over three years for Community Living B.C. home share providers, a 15 per cent increase overall to support 4,000 people with developmental disabilities. For foster, adoptive and extended family members, the budget is $64 million over three years, including an increase in post-adoption assistance.
Horgan was asked why he was emotional about the announcement.
“All of us, and I believe all members of the legislature, get involved to make life better for British Columbians,” Horgan said. “And the most vulnerable in our society are those who need a voice and need help more than anyone else. And those who provide care to those without a voice, we hear even less from because they’re too busy trying to make ends meet.”