Foster homes 'desperately' needed to keep children in Waterloo region, agency says

Posted: November 6, 2020

80 children are placed in foster homes outside the region

Hala Ghonaim · CBC News · Posted: Nov 06, 2020 10:29 AM ET | Last Updated: 1 hour ago

The agency says partners across the province are seeing similar trends. (Getty Images/Flickr RF)

Link to story on CBC website

Family and Children's Services of Waterloo Region says it's had to place more than 80 children in foster homes outside the region this year due to a shortage of local foster parents.

That means about 24 per cent of local children being cared for by foster parents are currently living outside Waterloo region. It's an increase from 18 per cent last year.

The agency says there are also fewer foster families in the region compared to in years past. Right now there are about 93 foster families in the region, a drop from 117 homes between 2018 and 2019.

Victor Santiago, family recruitment worker with the agency, said it's important to keep children in the community.

"To make sure they stay connected to family and the community… If this child is placed hours away, access visits with their family, remaining in the same school with their friends, their community, their sports teams, all of that gets disconnected," said Santiago.

Santiago said the agency needs about 40 additional foster families to meet the current demand. He said there is an overrepresentation of Indigenous and Black children in care and it's crucial those children are placed in Indigenous and Black homes to "make sure the attachment is still there."

"We are in desperate need," he said.

"Foster families play such an important role in our region because we've also seen them really step up and become mentors in many cases to the bio families of these children, so really supporting bio mom and bio dad to provide a safe home for that child."

On the whole, Santiago said the agency is seeing a steady decrease in children requiring foster care, which means more children are staying with their families. Still, he said at the moment the agency needs more foster parents to meet the immediate need.

Why there are fewer foster homes

Santiago said there are multiple reasons why the region is seeing fewer foster homes, a growing issue across the province.

There is a large number of foster families retiring and "the younger generation isn't fostering as much as the previous generation," he said.

Traditionally, foster families make up single income households with one guardian home with the children.

With the cost of living increasing, more families are relying on double income households.

"Waterloo region is very urban and we are also not a cheap area to live in, so cost of living is relatively high here, so families have to work quite a bit to stay afloat," said Santiago.

He said people are also busier with their children's extracurricular activities, leaving little time to devote to additional people in their lives.

COVID-19 impacts

Santiago said the agency is also looking for people who can offer temporary homes as part of the region's pandemic planning.

That means people who are willing to open up their homes for two to three weeks for children who have tested positive for the virus and whose parents are too ill to care for them.

"We need to find these homes that are willing to take in a child that is COVID-19 positive. That is definitely a challenge," he said.

He is urging people in the region to step up.

Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent is welcome to check out a virtual information night on Nov. 16, he said.

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