New Brunswick

Province faces constant pressure to recruit foster families

CBC News has learned that more than 100 foster homes closed between in 2013-14 and the majority were homes closed voluntarily or retired from fostering.

Department of Social Development is constantly recruiting foster families to fill void left by homes closing

New Brunswick lost 118 foster homes in 2013-14 and almost all of those were shut down because the families bowed out voluntarily or retired, CBC News has learned.

The Department of Social Development says 98 homes were closed when the families quit voluntarily or retired and four homes closed after adoptions were finalized.

Another 14 families could no longer foster for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Not meeting operational standards or non-negotiable criteria
  • Failing to cooperate with the department
  • For abuse or neglect of a client
  • After the confirmation of a complaint
  • A change in finances or health, or after relocation

Two homes were listed by the department as being closed after approval was denied.

Bill Innes, the director of child and youth services, says the Department of Social Development is always looking for new foster homes. (CBC)
Bill Innes, the director of child and youth services, said in a recent interview that the system sheds numerous families annually. There is a constant need to recruit new foster parents.

“We probably have anywhere 100-120 families that decide for whatever reason that they can no longer foster. It's part of the reason that we do recruitment," Innes said.

"We have about a corresponding number that actually become foster parents."

In December 2013, Auditor General Kim MacPherson reported that there was a 41 per cent decline in the number of foster care homes over eight years.

Her audit outlined the ways that placement shortages could cause “severe consequences” for already-vulnerable children, including the possibility of being separated from a sibling, being moved out of a home community or being placed in a group home, rather than a foster home.

Despite the constant turnover and need to recruit, the department says the situation has stabilized.

“We're remaining fairly stable in terms of numbers right now, between 460 and 500 at any given time,” said Innes.

Foster is a 'very unique' area

Kevin Kiley, a foster parent of 20 years and the president of the New Brunswick Foster Families Association, said there is a rigorous screening and training process undertaken each time a new foster family is recruited.

He also said being a foster parent sometimes turns out not to be for everyone.

Kevin Kiley, the president of the New Brunswick Foster Families Association, says better funding would improve the recruitment and retention of foster families. (CBC)
“Fostering is an area that is very unique,” he said.

"It's interesting that you all of a sudden, one day can have children in your home and they're there in your home for a short period of time or for as long as you need. Other times you can have nobody and then get a phone call and immediately, within an hour, your whole family dynamic can change because there is a new or a couple of additions to your home.”

Kiley points to several issues he thinks contribute to high turnover rates.

Some foster children are easier than others, but it’s those troubled children that really need a strong, resilient foster parent to look after them.- Zoe Bourgeois, youth adoption advocate

“The amount of remuneration that is given to foster parents [is an issue],” he said.

"Our province is probably one of the lower provinces in terms of funding or assistance to foster parents in providing to young people in their care.”

Kiley also points to what he sees as a change in generations.

“Lately, the majority of foster parents that I know in our association at the provincial level with our directors and executive — all of them are over 40 years of age,” said Kiley.

“Those who are younger, younger generations, don't seem to becoming involved in fostering, or if they do, they don't seem to stay very long in fostering, as maybe some of the older generations have.”

Kiley added foster care is a rewarding challenge.

“It's not always a bed of roses. It's not always easy," he said.

"But for close to 20 years of fostering, there have been many rewarding experiences throughout, where we've been able to help children.”

Zoe Bourgeois, a youth adoption advocate, says sometimes strength and resiliency are required if foster families are to stay committed to fostering. (CBC)
Zoe Bourgeois, an advocate with the Youth in Care Network, says even the best-trained foster parents need to be mentally prepared.

“Some foster children are easier than others, but it’s those troubled children that really need a strong, resilient foster parent to look after them,” she said.

The Department committed to addressing 11 recommendations made by the auditor general in 2013 to improve the foster care system.

A follow-up report on how many recommendations were implemented is expected in December.