More foster homes needed for babies and toddlers, says Sask. Foster Families Association
Parents Megan and Justin Reves say fostering babies 'heart wrenching' but worth it
Nearly 250 babies and toddlers were in need of foster care earlier this year, and that number is alarming to Deb Davies, the executive director of Saskatchewan Foster Families Association.
"Unfortunately, there are very young children in our province who are in need of care and not enough foster families to meet the need," said Davies.
"As a result babies in care may be placed in group care or other facilities."
As of June 30, there were 3,220 children in the care of the province who had been removed from their families because of concerns of neglect or safety. Of those children, 242 were infants or toddlers under 18 months of age.
In October, the Saskatchewan Foster Families Association ran its Fostering New Beginnings Campaign aimed at finding new foster families for babies, toddlers and sibling groups.
One foster family's story
Justin and Megan Reves of Regina started fostering babies five years ago.
Their first foster child, Odin, came to them when he was four months old. They have since adopted him and are now fostering two other toddlers.
"They've already experienced a lot and lost a lot, so we want to give them the best home," said Megan.
"That wasn't just providing them with a bed and food and shelter, but a family. Whether that's been for some just four days or others like Odin, it's forever."
The couple said they often have people say, "I couldn't do what you do, we'd get too attached," but the two say people who don't get attached shouldn't be foster parents.
'You love hard and you break hard and you pick yourself up and you get to do it again.' - foster parent Justin Reves
"There really is no way other than you love hard and you break hard, and then you pick yourself up and you get to do it again," said Justin.
He views the role of a foster parent as "carrying some scars so these kids don't have to."
The young couple said working with families is important to them and the goal of fostering is always family reunification.
Emotional roller coaster
The Reves are honest about how emotionally difficult being a foster parent can be. When Odin was two, he began transitioning out of their home and into the care of extended family for several months.
"It was difficult for him because to him we were mom and dad, so he wasn't doing well with the transition which made it harder," Megan said.
It was heart wrenching. It was in that moment we wanted to quit and I just felt like could we keep doing this?- foster parent Megan Reves
Megan said she reached a low spot about a month into the transition process.
"It was heart wrenching. It was in that moment we wanted to quit, and I just felt like 'could we keep doing this?'
"At the end of the day there was this amazing and beautiful little boy, that our life was so much better because he was in it. Even though we didn't know what his future was going to be, we felt like we would never trade the last two years we had with him, even though our heart was broken."
In the final days, the family arrangement fell though and Odin stayed with the Reves. One year later, the couple started fostering other babies.
The couple says being foster parents is about being a part of a community that supports families and children.
"You are going to get attached and you are going to hurt at times too and there's really no way around that, but ultimately it's so important because there are kids today being raised in 24-hour staff group homes," said Justin.
That's not how kids should enter life or any child. It's so much better to be raised in a family environment."
Even so, Justin said setting boundaries was important to the success of his family "because there is more need in this world than we can handle, any one person."
"We need to stay healthy and whole as a family unit and make sure we didn't get in over our heads, at which point no kids benefit."
Recruiting new families
In the month of October, the Foster Association sent out 86,000 information cards to households in Regina.
Davies said as a result of this blitz the association has received 97 inquiries about fostering and referred 35 people to the ministry to go through the approval process.
'We want families that are able to bear that heartache and work with kids, and be able to work with the children's birth families.' - Deb Davies, Saskatchewan Foster Families Association
There are currently 513 foster families in the province but Davies said they need a lot more more.
"We want families that are able to bear that heartache and work with kids, and be able to work with the children's birth families," said Davies.
"It takes a community to support a family."
That support doesn't only come in the form of being a foster parent. She said there is also a need for people who can help foster families with respite care, meals, or getting children to extra-curricular activities.
Davies encourages anyone who is interested in learning more about fostering to contact the association.
with files from CBC Radio's Morning Edition