Overcrowding in foster homes up 20% since February
Four months after the Children's Advocate raised the alarm about overcrowding in Saskatchewan foster homes, the problem appears to have worsened, CBC News has learned.
Documents obtained by CBC show the number of children in overcrowded foster homes has risen by 21 per cent, to 363 from 299.
Under Ministry of Social Services policy, foster homes with more than four children are considered overcrowded, although some homes have eight, nine, 10 or even more children.
Since the advocate's report on foster homes was released in February, Social Services has opened 40 new foster care spaces in Saskatoon.
In May, the province announced it would spend $4 million on the Eagle's Nest Youth Ranch to provide 20 new spaces for at-risk youth in the Saskatoon area.
Despite those changes, overcrowding is still a problem.
The Opposition New Democrats say given all that the government is spending, the situation should have improved by now.
NDP MLA David Forbes said he's "disturbed" to learn of the continued high number of children in overcrowded homes.
"That's shocking news, because the minister and this government … really said they're putting a full court press on this issue," Forbes said.
Bob Wihlidal, the ministry's assistant deputy minister of client services, says the overcrowding issue is a priority.
While it won't be fixed quickly, the ministry is taking many steps to fix the problem, he said.
"We've seen a 20 per cent increase in foster care rates over the past two-to-three years," Wihlidal said. "We're developing new and enhanced training for foster families, and we're really trying our best to recruit and retain foster homes."