Foster children in hotel rooms sometimes 'unavoidable,' minister says
Average time living in a hotel room has been 6.6 days, officials say
Hotel rooms are sometimes the only alternative available for placing children who need to be immediately out of their homes and into the government's care, Saskatchewan's minister of social services said Thursday in response to questions about the practice.
We just don't have the emergency receiving space to accommodate four or five children at one at one time.- Tina Beaudry-Mellor
"We are enforcing, unfortunately, an increasing number of children in the middle of the night — in the middle of a criminal circumstance," Tina Beaudry-Mellor, the minister of social services, said. "That makes a hotel use unavoidable."
Children removed from a home under an enforcement order are often placed with a foster family.
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Beaudry-Mellor said the province has been trying to recruit more people to become foster families and noted a recent effort in the Yorkton area has led to additional spaces being available.
Beaudry-Mellor added hotels may also be used when the number of children needing care, in a sibling group, is more than they have room for in a foster home.
"There may be four or five of them and we just don't have the emergency receiving space to accommodate four or five children at one home at one time," she said.
According to officials, the average length of stay in a hotel for a child taken into the government's care has been just over six days. Here are their figures:
- Average length of stay was 9.3 days for 2015.
- Average length of stay was 6.6 days during the first 10 months of 2016.
Beaudry-Mellor noted that, as of Thursday, there were no foster children currently living in a hotel room. Ministry officials also provided information on the number of children who have recently been living in hotels:
- April: 3.
- May: 30.
- June: 11.
- July: 51.
- Aug.: 44.
- Sept.: 38.
- Oct.: 22 (as of Oct. 25).
"This is not something that we want to see continue," the minister added. "The use of hotels speaks to the fact that it's difficult to keep up with the demand for children that are in crisis situations."
She said using hotels is a "last resort" measure.
Yorkton campaign adds 17 foster homes
According to Beaudry-Mellor, a recent recruitment campaign in Yorkton led to the addition of 17 foster homes, 10 of which can be used as emergency placement locations. She said the Yorkton area had been in serious need of new homes.
"I think that's great," the Opposition NDP critic Nicole Rancourt said, regarding the new foster homes.
Rancourt, who asked about the use of hotel rooms during Thursday's question period at the legislature, said she has heard concerns from foster families about the need for improved support from the province.
"The ministry of social services needs to provide foster parents with exactly the resources they need to provide these kids the proper care that they deserve," Rancourt said. "It's nice to hear they're working on this issue, but we're going to hold them accountable to ensure that kids aren't being place in hotel rooms."