Who can be a Foster Parent? What is the Process?
Our regular columnist, Joe McParland wrote a special Thanksgiving Cup of Joe article in the October edition demonstrating his gratitude for family and friends, since recently discovering (after nearly 70 years), the identity of his birth father.
McParland now has finally connected with his newly discovered brother, Don Martel, and his nephew, Christopher Martel.
This real-life story inspired us to dive into the world of adoption and foster care.
A family is the most important influence in a child’s life. They give one a sense of belonging, provide a safe zone and help a child learn how to interact with others.
Yet families come in all shapes and sizes. While biological children are a blessing for most, not all children are born to parents that are ready and/or able to provide them with the love, support, guidance and most importantly, the safety they need.
For this edition, we feature two organizations in the Windsor and Essex County area that facilitate foster care, and interview two local foster parents who have been through the process first-hand and share their experience with us. Following this article, our Guest Columnist Amanda Baigent, the Executive Director of Beginnings Family Services offers information on private and open adoption.
The Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society
Since 1899, the Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society (WECAS) has been the local branch of the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) in the Windsor/Essex County area.
CAS provides help and support to children and their families as mandated by the Child, Youth and Family Services Act of 2017 and is funded through the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services.
Located at 1671 Riverside Drive East, WECAS is responsible for investigating all allegations of child abuse including neglect, while also providing protection services to children, youth and their families in Windsor/Essex County.
When a serious concern about a child’s care at home arises, that child may need to be placed in foster care where foster parents provide a safe home for the child, temporarily.
These foster parents work with the local CAS as part of a care team for the child.
Ideally, the child is reunited with their family after all safety concerns are removed; when this is not possible, the care plan may include adoption or long-term foster care.
From 2019-2020 there were a total of 686 adoptions completed through CAS in Ontario. In that same year WECAS completed 29.
Who Can Be A Foster Parent?
Anyone that has the desire to parent children can come forward to care for children. To meet the diverse needs of the children and youth who come into their care, the WECAS recruits diverse foster families.
They encourage applications from families of different cultural, ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds.
Foster parents include members of the gay and lesbian community, couples with or without children, single parent families, single people, retired (single or married) individuals, married and common-law couples.
To become a foster parent, you need to complete a Structured Analysis Family Evaluation (SAFE), home study, and PRIDE training.
SAFE is a standardized assessment required for all those interested in kinship care, fostering, and adoption.
A SAFE home study includes application, home safety checklist/questionnaires, medical evaluations, criminal record check, Children’s Aid provincial and local database check, and references.
PRIDE pre-service is a nine-module (27 hour) training program used to prepare and educate families interested in kinship care, fostering and adoption.
“We require foster homes for children and youth up to 18 years of age, including homes for our youth over the age of 16 that are transitioning out of care,” notes Rebecca Ross, Foster Parent Recruiter/Trainer at WECAS. “So, if you can’t commit to the process and still have lots of room and time to mentor, consider a room and board arrangement for the older and more vulnerable youth in our community.”
The full process includes a telephone/email/online inquiry, attending an information session, an initial home visit, PRIDE pre-service training, a home study including an interview, and finally approval and signing the service agreement.
“Here at WECAS we are always looking for foster homes for our older children, teens and sibling groups,” indicates Dorothy Watson, BSW,Resource Supervisor at WECAS. “We can’t stress enough the importance of having a range of culturally diverse homes available so we can make the best matches for our children in care.”
Parenting Biz continues on Page 32