Ottawa family loses home insurance after company learns of foster children

An Ottawa family was denied home insurance earlier this month after its provider learned about foster children in the home — a decision that the insurance provider now calls a "mistake."

'Children are not a risk. Bottom line, it's disgusting,' says father

These Ottawa foster parents lost their home insurance after they told their provider there were three children in their care. (Waubgeshig Rice/CBC News)

An Ottawa family was denied home insurance earlier this month after their insurance provider learned about foster children in the home.

The parents, who can't be identified for the sake of the children's privacy, called the ordeal a "scary" situation that unfairly paints children in care as a risk.

"Insurance companies need to judge their risk, I understand that," said the father at their home in the rural northwest outskirts of Ottawa.

"But children are not a risk. Bottom line, it's disgusting. It's a terrible thing to do. It shouldn't happen."

Earlier this month, the family received their renewal policy in the mail from insurance company The Personal.

The father told CBC News that when he called to update some details, an agent asked if there were foster children in the home.

When he replied yes, he was put on hold and eventually told the home insurance would not be renewed, he said.

'I was in shock'

"I asked him, 'Why are you not insuring us? Is it because we have foster children?' He said, 'Yes, this is more like a commercial policy, and we will not renew your policy next month,'" said the father.

"I was in shock. And after hanging up, I became quite angry."

The couple has six biological children of their own, and they said they've fostered more than 100 children over the last 15 years. There are currently three foster children — ages 14, 13 and 11 — in their care.

The family has fostered more than 100 children over the past 15 years. (CBC)

"It can't become you choosing between your home and your children," said the mother. "We've got three kids that have been with us for three years, and will probably be with us for a while longer. And do we put them at risk? You have to be insured and they have to be a part of your family, and it can't be house against children. It's not right."

They were able to find another company to insure their home, however.

And after CBC inquired with The Personal about the cancellation, a spokesperson said it was a "mistake."

'There was a misunderstanding'

"There was a misunderstanding about the situation with the foster children," said company spokesperson Joe Daly in an email.

"In the case where a foster parent is on what we call the emergency list — meaning children are frequently brought to the home for emergency short-term care — we will not offer coverage because of the risk. But in this case, the foster children have been with the family for an extended period. So in a sense, they are part of a stable family."

Despite the company's explanation, the foster parents said they won't be reinstating their coverage with The Personal.

Debbie Hoffman, service director with the Children's Aid Society in Ottawa, calls cases like this "disturbing." (CBC)

Debbie Hoffman, service director of the Children's Aid Society in Ottawa, said her organization has "periodically" heard of foster parents being denied insurance.

In that case, CAS helps connect them with resources that can lead them to insurance companies that are known to provide for foster families, Hoffman said.

"Fostering is a hard enough job as it is, let alone having to then look for another insurer," added Hoffman.