The Road To Fostering in Fort McMurray
Crystal* and Bruce* became foster parents in an unconventional way. Travelling for work on a plane, Crystal met two women engaged in friendly conversation. Crystal learned they were Government of Alberta workers about to meet with children placed in foster care outside of Fort McMurray. Crystal asked why children were being placed so far from their home community. The workers explained there simply weren’t enough foster homes to meet the need in Fort McMurray.
After her flight, Crystal went home and relayed the conversation to her husband, Bruce. Bruce immediately suggested they look into becoming foster parents. Crystal agreed, contacted one of the Human Services workers she had met, and Crystal and Bruce’s journey began.
Bruce and Crystal didn’t have any previous experience with foster care, and they weren’t really sure if they would be approved. Their children had grown up and the couple assumed they wouldn’t meet the criteria because they had full-time careers and family obligations. But, they forged ahead because they really wanted to help local children.
Their leap of faith helped them become supportive foster parents. Crystal believes they were able to take on this new role because of their strong partnership with each other, their supportive employers and the help of their foster care support worker. When asked what will keep them fostering, Crystal says, “without a doubt, the children in [our] care”. She continues, “Fostering has made us better people. It has enriched our lives. While nothing this rewarding comes without challenges, it is the best thing we have ever done. It is about helping shape human beings. Our only regret is that we didn’t do this sooner.”
Crystal and Bruce’s guiding philosophy is that by helping children who cannot be with their natural families, they can help heal the next generation. They feel their role is clear: to parent children when their parents are unable to do so.
“It is really no different than being part of any other family system,” says Crystal.
“We want to help [children] recognize how important their feelings are, to trust in who they are. Watching them grow into strong independent people, seeing their resilience and watching them change so significantly is an amazing journey. Children do not have to be defined by their past; they have incredible capability to heal and grow… this journey for our family has been all about hope, promise and potential.”
Crystal continues, “Our job as foster parents is to fill in the gaps. Kids come with all kinds of different experiences and expectations...When challenges come...it is important to remember why we are doing this...”
She adds, “We really feel these kids were meant to be in our lives. We want them to know that life is good, to have the capacity to feel happiness and security and to be who they were meant to be.”
*Names have been changed to protect personal privacy.
What is foster care?
Foster Care is when children are placed in temporary homes with people they may not have previously known. Children may stay in a foster home for a few days or many years until they can return to their biological parents, extended family, adoptive parents or become adults. Foster parents receive financial compensation, training and support for the care they provide foster children.
How many children live in foster care?
There are about 3,700 children living in foster homes and another 1,600 children living in kinship homes in Alberta. Kinship care involves placing children in the homes of relatives and family friends. In Fort McMurray and area, there are currently 33 children living in foster care and 3 children living in kinship care. Approximately half of foster children have had to be placed outside of the region away from their families and communities due to a lack of foster parents.
Becoming a Foster Parent
We need more families who can provide safe, stable and caring homes for children in care.
All kinds of people can make great foster parents:
- men and women
- married, single, divorced or widowed
- from all cultural backgrounds
- young families or empty nesters
- homeowners or renters
- retired or employed outside the home.
If you meet the following criteria, you can apply to be a foster parent:
- You must be a resident of Alberta.
- Cohabitating applicants must have been in a stable relationship for at least 12 months prior to applying.
- You must be at least 18 years old. The maximum age will be determined by the best interests of the child.
- You have not had an additional child in the past 12 months and/or are not currently expecting an additional child through pregnancy or adoption.
- You must be physically and mentally capable of meeting the child’s needs with no major illness or trauma in the past 12 months.
- You need to have your own residence (with your own address) separate and apart from other caregivers.
1. Initial contact to get connected to a worker who will be assigned to help you through the application and matching process:
- local Child and Family Services office. For a location near you, visit: http://humanservices.alberta.ca/services-near-you/15010.html
- local Delegated First Nations Agency. For a location near you, visit http://humanservices.alberta.ca/family-community/15540.html
- Call 1-888-643-1899
2. Your application will include:
- three personal references
- medical reference
- criminal record check including vulnerable sector search
- intervention record check
3. Training: Foster parents complete caregiver orientation training and a thorough screening process before children are placed in their home. Caregiver orientation will give you an overview of what to expect when caring for a foster child. This includes child development, special needs of children in care, supports provided to foster parents and helping you decide if fostering will be a good fit for you and your family. Kinship caregivers also receive training. There is a similar screening process, but licensing is not required.
4. Home Study: The home study determines if the applicant can provide a safe and suitable home for children and addresses a variety of topics such as family history, parenting skills and home safety.
5. Licensing: Upon approval, you will be issued a foster home license and assigned a foster care support worker who will provide ongoing support and training. All homes are licensed annually.
6. Funding: Foster parents and kinship caregivers receive supports and basic maintenance funding to help them care for the children in their home.
If you would like more information about fostering in Fort McMurray and area, you can contact Laura Niven at 780-743-7234 or firstname.lastname@example.org, visit http://humanservices.alberta.ca/foster-kinship-care/14908.html or, view the “Foster Care Handbook” at http://humanservices.alberta.ca/documents/foster-care-handbook.pdf