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What is foster care?
There are times that a child cannot remain at home with their parent or caregiver because of serious safety concerns, this is when a child will enter the foster care system. They will be placed with a foster family that will care for them until it is safe to return home.
According to the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies (OACAS), foster care is defined as the placement of a child or youth in the home of someone who receives compensation for caring for the child but is not the child’s parent or caregiver.
Every child has different needs, some will be in foster care for just a few days, a week, several months, or possibly even years. While the ultimate goal is to keep families together, some children will remain in foster care permanently when their parent(s) remain unwilling or unable to meet their needs or they have reached the age of 18 and can live independently.
Why are children placed in foster care?
According to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS), children can be placed in foster care by a children’s aid society for the child’s protection, voluntarily by their parents or caregivers, or by court order.
Each child in foster care is unique. A child may be placed in care because there is a conflict within the family, their caregiver is ill or unable to take care of them; for example, they cannot provide the necessities of life for some reason. Other children may have been neglected, abused or abandoned. “Child abuse” includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse and/or neglect. It also addresses a pattern of abuse and risks of harm.
Are there different kinds of foster care?
Just like the unique children placed in foster care, there are different types of care to meet the needs of these children.
Regular Foster Care
Most children that come into the care of Children’s Aid Societies are placed in what is called ‘regular foster care’. In this model of care, a child is placed within an approved foster family that will provide for their day-to-day needs in a family setting. In this way, the child will have a stable home while their long-term plans are made. Most children will go back to live with their own families after staying with their foster family for a period of time. Other children will remain with a foster family until they are either adopted or have reached the age of 18 and can live independently.
The Parent Model of care is offered in some regions specifically for adolescents. Foster parents in this type of program foster in a home owned by the local Children’s Aid Society. This program provides care for up to three youth. The CAS will provide a staff-supported, family-based environment for adolescents where they can work on life skills to prepare them for their permanent plan after they leave the foster care system.
Relief or Respite Care
Respite or relief care homes generally support other foster parents for weekends or on a short-term basis; for instance when travelling together isn’t possible because of restrictions of the placement child or many other reasons.
Foster families that act as Receiving Homes provide emergency placements for school-aged children and usually for no more than 30 days.
Customary care is a culturally appropriate placement option within the child’s community. It respects the values and traditions of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit children who are not able to remain with their immediate family. There are formal and traditional care agreements depending on the needs of the child and the community supports available where they are from.
Kinship home care is typically provided by someone the child is familiar with. The caregiver would typically be a relative, community member or a friend of the child’s family.
How can I become a foster parent?
If you would like to learn more about becoming a foster parent, the first step is to contact your local Children's Aid Society. They will help you complete the required steps. You must complete a mandatory homestudy assessment and parent preparation training to be approved as a foster caregiver.
The Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies also provides detailed information about fostering. Foster parents work with their local Children’s Aid as part of a team to develop and support a plan of care for each child in care.
Foster parents are individuals or couples, who have a desire to contribute to their community by supporting the growth and development of children in need of care. Foster parents come from all cultural and religious backgrounds.
There is always a need for more foster homes, and there are many regional foster recruitment programs across the province. For information about foster care, contact the foster care department at your local CAS.
For More Information
- Duty to Report - If you have any reason to believe that a child is in need of protection or is at risk of harm, make the call to Children’s Aid. From Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies.
- What options do I have for adopting a child? - Adopting children happens for different reasons; regardless of your reason, there are steps to take if you are planning on blending and growing your family. From Settlement.Org
March 31, 2021