Online foster parent training program first in Canada

Saskatchewan is offering Canada's first online foster training program. Officials say it will reduce travel and time in training foster parents by improving accessibility.

Saskatchewan has seen a 35% decrease in foster homes over 4 years

Long-time foster parent Kevin Harris says younger replacements are needed. (CBC)

The province calls it "a real game-changer".

Saskatchewan will become the first province in Canada to offer online training for prospective foster parents.

"There are many people out there who want to help children in need but what they lack is time," said Saskatchewan Social Services Minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor. "This online training program will allow us to meet them halfway."

The Saskatchewan Foster Families Association (SFFA) says having 30 hours of online training will reduce the travel time needed by many to attend training courses.

"In our province we see severe weather in the winter months and this allows families to stay in their homes, in their community to access the training," said SFFA executive director Deb Davies.

Foster homes decreasing

In the last four years, the number of foster homes in Saskatchewan has decreased by 35 per cent. The province says that's due to a number of factors. One reason is fewer households have one stay-at-home parent to help look after foster children.

With many foster parents now in their 50s and 60s, the province says it needs to recruit younger people.

Kevin Harris,59, and his wife have been fostering for years. He welcomes the new online program. Harris said fostering has been a rewarding experience and most don't do it for money.

"We as a family have become much more rich in our world view," said Harris. "We've benefited far more than — in some cases — the children because we have a better view of the world."

Existing and prospective foster families can access the first half of the training program online immediately.

The second half of the program will be online in spring 2017.