New Brunswick

New Brunswick Adoption Foundation seeks to expand peer network

The New Brunswick Adoption Foundation is hoping to get more of the 443 children currently in foster care into adoptive homes by expanding its peer support network.

N.B. Adoption Foundation hopes peer network will help get more kids into permanent homes

Colin Kennedy-Robichaud, 11, who was adopted by Jeff Kennedy (left) and Yves Robichaud, three years ago, will be the guest speaker at the New Brunswick Adoption Foundation's luncheon in Moncton on Tuesday. (Paul Landry/Radio-Canada)

The New Brunswick Adoption Foundation says there are 443 children in foster care in the province who face a precarious future because most of them will never get a permanent home.

That's why the foundation is hoping to expand its peer network across the province, so that families who are considering adoption, and families who may be struggling with adoption, can get help from others with similar experiences.

"And so they can go into the adoption process with eyes wide open," explained executive director Suzanne Kingston.

Suzanne Kingston, executive director of the New Brunswick Adoption Foundation, says the foundation introduces families to one another and puts them in contact with important provincial resources. (CBC)
Kingston says children who live through conditions so difficult that the state has severed all custodial ties to their biological parents, are also children who may have issues that aren't understood or recognized by the families with whom they've been placed.

"Joining a healthy family is not easy when you've been living in difficult circumstances," she said.

That's where the peer counselling and educational meetings come in, said Kingston.

The foundation says it introduces families to one another and puts people in contact with important resources inside the Department of Social Development.

'Made our journey a lot easier'

The network has been invaluable for Jeff Kennedy and Yves Robichaud, of the Moncton area, and was especially useful in 2013, the year they took eight-year-old Colin into their home.

Colin, now 11, admits he might have been a handful back then.

"It was sort of hard for me to get used to living in one house for longer than four months 'cause I was always moving foster home to foster home to foster home to foster home," he said.

Wherever I went, they just weren't prepared to take care of me, 'cause to take care of me was a bit challenging.- Colin Kennedy-Robichaud

"Wherever I went, they just weren't prepared to take care of me, 'cause to take care of me was a bit challenging." 

Kennedy says other parents, who had been through adoption, provided a kind of roadmap that helped shape his own expectations and provided some guidance on how to manage the difficulties.

"And when you meet with challenges, you're able to pick up the phone or [send] an email and say, 'Hey, have you experienced this before? And what should I do, how should I challenge this?'" he said.

Kennedy says there was a testing phase with Colin, when the child was trying to figure out whether he could trust the new adults in his life. 

"And we appreciated the time and advice that each and everybody in the foundation gave to us, because it made our journey a lot easier," he said.

Those who age out of system face problems

Kennedy and his son are expected to speak at a fundraising luncheon in Moncton on Tuesday. 

It aims to raise awareness about the need for more adoptive families and the foundation's goal of raising at least $150,000 this year to expand its peer network across the province.

While the network takes calls and tries to help anyone in the province, its main operations are in Moncton, Saint John and northeastern New Brunswick.

According to its news release, youth who age out of foster care, with no permanent home, find themselves facing some difficulties within two to four years. 

Fifty per cent of them do not graduate from high school. Half will be unemployed, and 60 per cent of the young women will get pregnant.

The foundation says teens as young as 16 can elect to forego foster care services in New Brunswick.   

Those who go on to post-secondary education can continue to get support until age 24.

But most often, the foundation says youth age out of the system around 18 or 19.

The province says the number of children in foster care has been reduced to 713 in 2014-15 from 1,452 in 2004-05 as a result of investments made in prevention initiatives and efforts to support and engage family members in supporting parents.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel Cave is a CBC reporter based in Saint John, New Brunswick.

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