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DCAFS now at ‘crisis point’ due to lack of foster parents

October 21, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Brian Lockhart

Not everyone has a stable home life.

When trauma or a family disruption occurs, it is sometimes necessary to temporarily take a child from their home and place them in foster care. 

That’s when Dufferin Child And Family Services (DCAFS), the local children’s aid society, becomes involved and places children in a stable environment until they can be reunited with their families or extended families.

Unfortunately, there is currently a shortage of available homes in Dufferin County and DCAFS is reaching out to residents to encourage more people to open their homes to children in need.

“A foster family is a family, single parent, or couple, who provide temporary care for a child who has come into the care of the Society,” explained DCAFS Resource Services Manager, Mary Margaret Fuller. “They provide temporary care. They are parenting those children on behalf of the Society while we continue to work with their families in order to reunite them with their parents or find other kin who can care for them.”

There is no set period for the time a child will remain in foster care. It could be anywhere from a couple of days to several years. 

The ideal situation is to have a child back with their families as soon as possible; however, there is never a specific time limit.

“We’ve have some kids who might remain in a fostering situation for a number of years,” explained DCAFS executive director, Jennifer Moore. “However, we don’t like to do that because we want to work toward permanent solutions for kids, whether it is reunification with their family or with another permanent option – preferably with other family if that is all possible.” 

Currently there are only nine homes in all of Dufferin County that are fostering children.

“We want to find permanency for any child who comes into the care of the agency as quickly as possible,” Mary Margaret explained. “Permanency can be with, ideally their own family, extended family, or friends of the family that know them and have a relationship with.”

Ms. Moore said they try to dispel some of the myths that surround DCAFS services.

“One thing that’s important for us to get out is, we are working hard trying to shift some of the thinking and perceptions of child protection – being that we apprehend kids – that’s not what happens. We don’t want people to think that. There’s only around three percent of all situations that we deal with in a year where there’s some kind of disruption to that family unit. Even if a kid goes to a neighbour for the night – we count that in our data. We try to balance out the fact that we need foster parents. We don’t want to move kids outside of their home community, we don’t want them to change schools. We want to have as much consistency as possible for them. We also want to make sure the public is aware that the vast majority of our work is with children and youth in their own home.”

With only nine homes currently available there is a need for other concerned people to step up and help.

“We have a crisis right now in the number of homes that we have that are able to take children for placements,” Mary Margaret said. “The number of our foster homes has decreased over time through a number of factors. We’ve had lots of long-standing foster parents and it’s time for them to retire and we need to replenish those homes.”

Foster parent Judy Clarke and her husband Garry Gilroy have been foster parents for 15 years. 

“I was a teacher and heading toward retirement and my kids were leaving,” Ms. Clarke said of becoming a foster parent. “My husband was also part of the system when he was younger – he lived in a group home and he wanted to give back. That’s what his sentiment was, and I have worked with kids, well, forever. It was my pleasure to do it, I’ve always loved kids.”

Judy and Garry specifically welcome teenage girls into their home. 

“We have four beds. Typically we take care of teen girls,” Ms. Clarke explained. “ That’s our area of expertise. There was a need and that’s something foster parents have to be available for. That developed into our specialty. Some people are great with babies, some are good with toddlers or ages six to 12. We have a way of working with teens that helps a lot. My husband is also a Child and Youth Worker, and with his own personal experience he is really able to contribute. We’ve taken a lot training in trauma care – how to take care of young people who have had a lot of trauma and bring them along in a gentle way.”

Judy and Garry have cared for youth for as little as a few days as well as one girl who was with them for seven years. 

“I would encourage people to become foster parents because it is incredibly rewarding,” Ms. Clarke said. “You have to make a bit of space in your life. We still are in contact with some young people who stayed with us so it is very rewarding.”

DCAFS will be holding two information sessions for people who have considered becoming foster parents.

The first session will take place this Saturday, October 19, at the Alder Street arena in Orangevlle from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The second session will take place at the DCAFS building on Riddell Road on Saturday, October 26, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

You can visit the website at www.dcafs.on.ca to find out more and see how you can become a foster parent.



         

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