The high cost of living is taking its toll on some of society’s most vulnerable members.
More than 1,000 children and youth on Vancouver Island are in desperate need of foster homes. But with the cost of homes going up across the region, the Foster Parent Support Services Society is having a hard time finding foster families.
“I think there’s a lot of pressures to work outside the home,” said Dan Malone, executive director of the society. Traditionally, he said, they would see a lot of families take in foster children while one parents is already home with kids.
Eva Vowles, education co-ordinator, added “we’ve had foster families sell their homes to buy bigger homes to take in more kids.”
But that’s not something they’re seeing much of lately.
With expenses forcing both parents to work, Malone thought that factor could be contributing to a shortage of homes. “There’s [also] less and less people having extra rooms in their homes,” he added.
And as a safety requirement, he noted families do need to have an extra bedroom for foster children they bring into their home.
Another reason people may not be signing up is the common misconception that to be a foster parent you need to be a stereotypical family in a large home. But that’s not the case assured Vowles, adding they look at all sorts of diverse situations.
The provincial ministry of children and family development places foster children in the best homes based on that child’s or children’s specific needs. That’s why is so important to have a diverse range of options, Vowles said, adding it will increase the chances of finding that “best fit.”
“If we can find the right home the first time it can help the child,” she explained, noting it’s important to remember that while all stays vary in length, they are meant to be temporary and it is not the roadway to adoption. “The idea is to return them to a safe and healthy home … often it works but sometimes it doesn’t.”
Malone noted to be a foster parent you need to be 19 years of age or older and able to provide a safe environment. But the most important factor is just being able to commit the time.
That time factor may be why the Foster Parent Support Services Society is also finding a desperate need for homes willing to take in babies.
While Malone noted they are always in need of homes for children of all ages, especially teens, he said there is an exceptional need for homes for babies. “It’s more than usual … it’s across the board right now,” he added.
“Sometimes people are intimidated … you just have to offer a warm, safe place,” Vowles said. “A lot of people think about it for a long time … [but] now’s the time.”
She added you just have to help one. “If you’re not ready or the timing’s not quite right for you, just spread the word.”
Malone added it’s also important to remember that foster parents are not alone as there are lots of support networks in place. “Contact us and we’ll get you out to an information session.”
Information sessions are scheduled for June 6 from noon until 1 p.m. and June 20 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. To learn more go to fosterhope.ca or fpss.com. Or you can contact the Langford office directly by calling 778-430-5459.