The Nova Scotia provincial government announced an increase in funding for foster parents on Thursday, and foster families say it's a step in the right direction.
As of Aug. 1, there will be an increase to per diem rates, more money to pay for babysitters and a new monthly auto-payment for travel expenses.
"Today is a good day to be a foster parent in Nova Scotia," Wendell Fraser, chair of the Federation of Foster Families of Nova Scotia, said at Thursday's announcement.
"No matter where we live in this province, the process will be the same and the turnaround of expenses will be the same … This process will ensure foster parents are reimbursed promptly."
'It's not a lot, but it is a step'
Maureen Wickwire, who has been a foster parent for 12 years — and fostered more than 35 children — said they've been asking the community services minister for 10 years to increase per diems to catch up with today's cost of living.
"I know it seems like a small jump," she said. "It's not a lot, but it is a step, a step further.
"The biggest thing it means is that we're being recognized, that somebody is listening."
Roughly $2 increase in daily per diems
The funding increase of $1.6 million annually includes:
- Increasing the per diem for children up to nine years old from $17.50 to $19.
- Increasing the per diem for children 10 years and older from $25.43 to $27.50.
- Increasing the babysitting rate for children up to 12 years old from $4 to $10.60 per hour for the first child, plus $4 per hour for each additional child up to four children per household.
- A monthly auto-payment for mileage of $50 per child.
Wickwire said she and other parents are thrilled with the increase of the babysitting rate in particular.
"With foster care, we are 24/7, it never ends. If we don't get those small breaks to get out with our spouse or our significant other or with a friend just to talk, then we will crash and burn," she said.
"We need to retain the foster homes that are there right now. We need to keep them getting what they need — and they need a break."
There are currently 619 foster parents in the province.
Community Services Minister Kelly Regan said while the per diem increases may appear small, it adds up to an increase of between $1,150 and $1,350 annually.
Parents want less 'red tape'
"So what we're hearing from the parents is this is significant," said Regan.
"One of the things we heard when we consulted with them was that we could reduce the red tape, and so that's why you have a mileage piece every month rather than people having to give receipts and that. It just makes it easier."
Regan said she hopes the changes will help attract more people to become foster parents.
"We want folks to know whatever the shape or size or constitution of your family, you may well be what we're looking for."