April 3, 2006
Should foster care be licensed?
By VIVIAN SONG
Like licensed daycare, foster care should also be professionalized, says a professor of child and family studies and a foster parent.
"When our own children go to daycare, we as parents insist that the daycare is licensed and insist that the provider has some educational background like early childhood education," said Thomas Waldock, a professor at Nipissing University and a published child-advocate author.
"We demand more of those systems, but when it comes to foster care, because we're talking about marginalized kids from marginalized populations, we place ads in papers requesting foster parents to join the system."
On average, the base rate foster parents receive is about $26.71 a day, not including incidental fees like soccer, music lessons or special needs costs.
$350 A DAY
Costs of keeping a child in a group home - which eats the biggest chunk of the system's budget - can get as high as $350 a day.
By investing resources and money into foster parents with educational backgrounds in social work and early childhood education, children would be looked after with the same kind of standard parents exact of the daycare providers who only look after their children eight hours a day, Waldock said.
"What tends to happen is that people and the press focus on the fact that kids are left in (horrible) situations ... but where the children get placed after they're removed tends to get lost ... There's very little focus on the quality of system children go into," Waldock said.
For Jeanette Lewis, executive director of OACAS, the licensing notion is at once idyllic and impractical.
"There's something to be said for that," she said. "But at the same time, you can't professionalize love, attachment, respect and caring. That's the dilemma."
April 3, 2006
Wards move every 22 months
Aim of Ontario's new child-care legislation is to bring permanency for children in care
By VIVIAN SONG
Young people in foster and group homes move on average every 22 months, according to the ministry of children and youth services.
There are about 9,000 permanent Crown wards in Ontario, but only 10% of them are adopted each year.
Last Monday the province passed new child protection legislation in Bill 210, for children like the youth in the documentary Wards of the Crown, who spent loveless childhoods being shuffled from home to home.
Minister Mary Anne Chambers said the new bill places priority in creating greater permanence for kids in care.
"If kids are changing homes on average every 22 months, that means new schools, getting accustomed to new neighbourhoods and friends. It's not the kind of stable environment that support strong growth in kids," Chambers said.
There are no caps on the number of times a foster child can be uprooted and moved to another foster home, says Jeanette Lewis, executive director of the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies, in part because there's a shortage of foster homes.
As of March of last year, the OACAS counted 8,004 foster homes and 1,460 adoption homes in the province.
"Overall, the whole question of taking care of another person's child has changed and the reality is more difficult," Lewis said.
As they grow older, existing foster parents stop fostering and retire the children back into the system. Increasingly multicultural communities also present unique challenges to an already overburdened child welfare system.
"There's a tremendous emphasis on the recruitment of foster parents from different cultures. But it's tough because in some cultures there is no word for foster care in their language. It's quite a challenge," Lewis said.
Claudette Maheux, manager of child and youth care services of the Ottawa CAS said the whole premise of foster care needs to be redefined.
"We need to do away with the term 'long-term foster care,'" she says in the film. "Foster homes should be for purposes of temporary care of children until we can find them permanence. It should not be the permanent plan."