On the hunt for foster families [Updated]

After launching a successful province-wide campaign to increase the number of foster families in Saskatchewan one year ago, the Saskatchewan Foster Families Association (SFFA) is turning their attention to Prince Albert.

On Wednesday, the SFFA and the Saskatchewan government announced the start of a campaign designed to find more families in the area.

SFFA executive director Deb Davies said their initial campaign was successful in attracting 111 new applicants from across the province during the month of August alone. However, there is still a need in Prince Albert, which she attributes to a lack of information.

“One of our biggest challenges is just educating our community of what the need is and what a foster family actually does and what it means to be a foster parent,” she explained.

The number of Saskatchewan children in care has grown significantly over the past three years, climbing from roughly 2,900 in 2014 to about 3,200 as of June 30, 2017. It’s difficult to tell how many are in foster care, because the number includes children who are wards of the province, but living with extended family members instead of their parents.

The numbers have been relatively stable in the northern service area, which includes Prince Albert, La Ronge, Nipawin, Meadow Lake, Melfort and Lloydminster. As of June 30, 2017 there were 932 “children in care” throughout the north. That’s slightly above the 889 children in care reported in June 30, 2013. Meanwhile, the number of children in care has expanded across the rest of the province, especially in the south where the number jumped from less than 1,100 in 2014 to nearly 1,300 in 2017.

During that same time the number of foster homes has shrunk. According to data from the Ministry of Social Services, there were 505 approved providers in Saskatchewan as of June 30, 2017. That’s up from 500 the year before, but down significantly from the 614 in 2013.

In the northern region there are 139 approved foster homes, a term that includes homes providing regular foster care, therapeutic foster care or both. In 2013, there were 189.

Davies said they currently have enough capacity to meet current needs, but they’d like additional families available should that change.

“We don’t have a specific goal,” she said. “There aren’t kids waiting to come into foster care. We just want to have enough homes to respond when a family does require our assistance.”

Davies added that there is always the possibility that homes have to exceed “numbers that they are comfortable with.” However, she said there are supports in place to help families housing additional children.

She also emphasized that it’s important to have the right family for children in foster care. The organization has developed on online training module to help families learn whether they’re suited for the task.

“Fostering isn’t always a good fit for everyone, and there are many different ways you can help or support foster families in your community,” she explained. “But, if you are interested in asking those questions and finding out if this a good fit for your family, we would encourage you to call.”

For more information about what is required to become a foster parent, please call the SFFA at 1-800-667-7002 or visit www.saskfosterfamilies.ca.

How crowded are Saskatchewan’s foster homes?

Roughly half of Saskatchewan’s 505 foster homes care for only one or two children, however there are 43 listed as housing more than the recommended number of four foster children. There are three foster homes in the province housing nine children, the highest number in one home. According to a spokesperson from the Ministry of Social Services, the homes will usually house more than four children when the ministry is trying to keep siblings together, rather than spreading them out across multiple care providers. The spokesperson also said all decisions to house more than four children were made in consultation with the foster parents.

@kerr_jas • jason.kerr@paherald.sk.ca

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