Child advocates are warning of a deepening foster-care crisis across the country.
An estimated 85-thousand children and youth across
Canada are in foster care, and experts warn that some have been placed without
full safety checks, while good parenting candidates are sometimes discouraged
by the bureaucracy.
The number of families willing to foster kids is dwindling, and in some cases children are being housed in supervised apartments or overcrowded homes.
Although the circumstances vary by province, many
agree that the system is strained, and that the cost of doing nothing is
severe. Children who spend time in foster care are less likely to finish high
school and are over-represented in the criminal justice system.
The report touched several readers on a personal level. Many wrote candid and insightful posts that are too long to include in their entirety, but we invite you to click on their hyperlinked usernames to read their full accounts.
Many foster parents and candidates came forward to share their experiences.
- "My wife and I have been fostering for 18 years now . . . We have recommended fostering to 17 couples. Eight couples became foster parents (made it that far) but only one lasted beyond one year and quit before they made it two years. The children are very seldom the problem . . . 90 percent of the time foster parents encounter problems with "the system" . . . The whole infrastructure is wrought with problems. Unfortunately, human nature gets in the way and ruins it for the well-meaning ones, especially us, who are in it for the long haul." - western2
- "The system is so broken. Approximately seven years ago I was worked in a group home for foster kids. I was asked by one of the Children's Aid workers if I ever though of fostering, I said yes. I was going to foster a 17-year-old boy that had a rough upbringing and just needed someone that cared, and was willing to give him some structure . . . I was denied because in their own words 'I cared about this kid too much, and the goal for him was to go home' . . . So the stories I heard from these kids I use to work with, about the fridges being locked, not having beds, too many kids in the house, and people doing it for the money, that is better then I?" - tonilynn
- "Being a foster parent myself, I can assure all that the process is very strict and detailed before being approved for foster parenting. I can also let you know that an organization can have all the testing in the world; some crap will still fall through the cracks. I believe the CCAS has come a long way from what it was. It is a good organization and in relation to the "pay", one shouldn't be doing this for the money." - Btlpig
- "My wife and I were totally ready to be foster parents but the whole system is discouraging . . . After we get the kids then we have a social worker come visit our home but parents with records of abuse aren't checked up on. The whole system is messed and a bureaucratic nightmare. They created it with their bureaucracy and they think they can get out of their current problem with bureaucracy, I think not." - KyBerg
- "The various ministries are partly to blame for the lack of placements and for the diminishing number of people willing to foster children. We used to foster children and found that the ministry withheld information from us that we really should have known having to do with the safety of our family. They often failed to reveal the full extent of the child's difficulties and provided little support and no apologies when confronted with the issue." - Watzup
- "I used to be a foster parent and honestly, it was the treatment by the social workers towards us that was the biggest reason for us leaving after many years of fostering. I have had many former kids contact me over the years and tell us what a great job we did, so I don't believe it was us . . . but some social workers treat foster parents like they are stupid. I have done work towards a Masters but still, I was constantly talked down to." - southalbertan
- "As someone who both grew up in foster care (from the age of 4 onwards) and then came full circle and now works in a group home in British Columbia, I can't express enough how close the fostering situation is to complete disaster. There's really no amount of money that can adequately remunerate those who help these kids, however it appears that nobody in a position of power really cares enough to try." - AlsidPrime
- "A topic that people who have seen the system from the inside out can comment a lot on . . . I made it and am stronger for it but I don't put one ounce of credit with the government -- no one can mess things up like them. It was the kindness of strangers and a lot of luck that got me through." - Happytobealive
- "I was a foster kid in the late '70s and early '80s. I have to say I was lucky . . . it was no secret even then that the system was broken. Stories of sexual, physical and mental abuse suffered by foster kids filtered through the "community". I heard stories even then of foster parents that took kids as near babies and then abruptly turned away simply because they became teenagers and the family didn't want those. On the other hand I also heard of well-intentioned foster parents that were expected to take a youth with deeply rooted behavioural issues and given little to no training on how to handle them . . . Until honest effort is made to tackle these issues, few new foster parents will be encouraged, myself included, to put their name into the system." - AlbertCouillard
- "I was raised by social services; by my community. I grew up knowing I was a burden to my community through 30 moves in 15 years. Foster kids today are still being made to feel that way, a burden to society. This makes me very sad and I hope that people can be shown that a foster child is no different than any other child; they are innocent and deserving of the best kind of care . . . The biggest lesson I learned was how to make a great first impression. I knew that when I was meeting my new caregivers that they wanted an ideal child and I would be that if for nothing more than to have a place to sleep that night, but my bags were always packed." - ElizabethMcGee
Others commented on the issue in broader strokes, and argued that the status quo simply cannot stand.
- "I don't think we as a society can afford to ignore the issue. The social and financial cost of children growing up to be dysfunctional adults as a result of improper care is far greater than if we had done it right to begin with. I fear the prevailing attitude is becoming "It's not my kid, why should I care, and why should my taxes pay for it." The lack of humanity of that mindset is astounding. We need to find balance in our social budgets to prevent vulnerable children from falling through the cracks. Our communities depend on it." - Danny B
- "The system is imploding because it was built to implode. On one hand you have special families willing to provide a stable home environment. On the other its social worker bureaucracy that can't even keep up with its own self inflicted bureaucracy . . . it's just another example of government delivering bad service for way too much money. And, you guessed it, the only way to solve the problem is to throw even more money at it, so they can build even more bureaucracy." - JohnSp
- "Social workers aren't getting rich...and they wouldn't have chosen child welfare if they wanted to. They do the best with what they have for resources. The anti-government propagandists would like to ensure that we do not put any more resources into the system...that way they will be able to justify their "tough on crime" legislation when these kids continue down a directionless path filled with heart-ache, neglect, and tragedy. And we all know how much it costs to keep an inmate in care...a lot more than 30 bucks a day." - LeftIsRight
- "There are no easy answers for this bad situation . . . I am also married to an adult raised in the foster system. It was not a positive experience for my spouse and his siblings. There are good people on both sides of the fence. Some people claim that kids are removed from homes too easily. I've seen children that were not removed soon enough. It's easy to lay blame. It's harder to come up with a solution . . . I hope that the blame games stop and that real thought goes into improving the broken-down system that exists today." - Island Time
As always, we thank you for following our
coverage and offering your personal accounts - particularly in this case. We
invite readers to continue the conversation below.
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