Looking at the list of names of children currently requiring out of home placement with the Children’s Aid Society of Algoma, one can easily grasp the pressing need for foster parents in our region. But, for Resource Supervisor Lanna Coletti, it is the number of children not listed that is truly worrisome.
Since March 2020, Algoma CAS has had only two people reach out to become potential foster parents. For an agency currently at 98 per cent capacity, this is an unsettling reality. During this time, local children were isolated from the people who typically detect signs of trouble within the home. Coletti fears that because the daycares, schools, and doctor’s offices were shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, children in need of CAS services may have gone undetected for months. “Now that schools are opening, it is reasonable to expect a rise in reporting of cases, and more families will come to our attention. In those cases where the situation requires the removal of a child and there are no family members who can help out, I worry about an influx of children needing foster home placement, and I’m worried about the ability to accommodate that need.’
This growing need and current situation add further stress to an already taxed system and resources. “Our current foster parents are being asked to take on more than what they signed up for, during a time of unprecedented stress and uncertainty. They have stepped up and are taking this challenge on – but at what cost and to what end?” The Children’s Aid Society of Algoma is currently rolling out a marketing campaign including a promotional video to encourage caring adults to seem more information on becoming foster parents.
Families Helping Families
Foster parents are needed for children of all ages, and adolescents to teenagers in particular. There is also an urgent need for homes willing to care for sibling groups. Melissa Guild is a Supervisor of Child Protection/Residential Services, Central and North Algoma and sees siblings split between homes, or even different communities. “As an agency, we aim to keep children together in foster homes within their community. But at this moment in time, we’re struggling to do that because of our limited number of foster homes – which is why our need is so urgent.” Additionally, the agency struggles to place children who have emotional or behavioural challenges. “These children have life experiences that often lead to those types of challenges, and it is difficult to find caring and understanding homes that are a good match.”
Supporting kids and caregivers in our community
Foster parents do more than keep children safe; they provide a sense of security and emotional support. Fostering expands the circle of meaningful caregivers and adults in a child’s life. Many older foster children continue to maintain relationships with their caregivers as they grow. It is important to note the emotional benefits for foster parents as well, and that the Children’s Aid Society of Algoma is on hand to provide ongoing support to foster families including training, mentoring, respite relief and more. Both foster children and parents are assigned workers to ensure they have access to the services and supports they need. It is a team-oriented approach that involves a wide network of professional support.
Melissa Guild believes in the strength of our community and its ability to step up when help is truly needed. “Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma residents are community-focused and proud of the work they do to keep our community safe. We’ve seen the community come together and face recent challenges, and as an agency, we are relying on the strength of our community to come forward and help our children.”
For Lanna Coletti, that list of names of children needing foster families will be growing, and the need for foster parents in our community has never been more urgent. “Fostering is hard work but it will be worth it. We have a proud community and we have children in need – so let’s step up and make a difference.”
If you have ever considered becoming a foster parent and needed that one special reason or was waiting for the right time – it is now. Reach out, ask questions and get information. To take the first step toward becoming a foster parent and helping a child and family in your community, contact the Children’s Aid Society Foster Recruitment Team and ask to speak with Tina Bastos at 705-949-0162 extension 310, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.