VERNON - A shortage of foster homes is impacting the quality of care provided to children during what can be one of the most traumatic experiences of their lives, says a spokesperson for a foster parents association.
Noelle Typusiak with the North Okanagan branch of the Okanagan Foster Parents Association says the number of homes in the network is the lowest it has been in the last ten years, largely due to the recent retirement of a number of dedicated foster parents.
“We’ve had some amazing parents that fostered for almost ten years or more who have reached retirement, and so our numbers have decreased fairly significantly in the last year,” Typusiak says.
Fewer foster homes means it’s harder to find the best placement for a child coming into the system, Typusiak adds.
“The foster parents we have still do amazing work with the kids they have, but sometimes they would do a better job if they had one less kid,” she says. “We always need as many foster parents as we can get. The more we have, the better a match it is when we’re looking for a home.”
The number of children already in the home, the family’s interests and proximity to the child’s school are all factors that contribute to finding the right home for a child. As of March, there were 239 children in foster care in the Vernon area alone, compared to roughly 100 homes. Even another 20 foster homes would make a huge difference, Typusiak says.
She says most of the foster homes are full and while the Vernon system is not as stretched as some communities it's much the same in other Okanagan communities.
The association is appealing to community members for whatever level of commitment they are prepared for, whether full time care or simply providing respite to other families on weekends.
“It’s a really stressful, scary situation when kids have to go from their family to living with strangers,” Typusiak says. “Foster parents make that as easy as possible for them and really make strong attachment commitments to those kids. They are there for the child and their family and do all they can to make what is a traumatic experience for kids as easy as possible.”
Becoming a foster parent is no quick or easy venture, but Typusiak says there’s lots of support along the way. Introduction to fostering classes are coming to Vernon on April 22 and May 20, and as part of a new streamlined process for applicants, the sessions will count toward the required training. For more information, or to register, contact Typusiak at 250-558-0939 or NOKsupport@okfosterparents.ca.
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