There are many children in British Columbia who, through no fault of their own, are unable to stay at home with their birth family. That’s where foster families come in. They take on one of society’s most important jobs by caring for young people when their natural families face extremely challenging circumstances.
In communities throughout B.C., about 3,000 foster families open their hearts and their homes to about 5,300 vulnerable children and youth. Here in the Central Okanagan, there are 97 families doing this compassionate and rewarding work—and we thank them.
Have you ever considered the possibility of fostering? Perhaps you feel you have the space in your heart and home for one of these wonderful kids, but aren’t sure you are suited to the task. It’s fair to have that hesitation, because fostering is by no means an easy undertaking. It requires time, effort, and patience—but more than anything, a real desire to make a difference in the lives of children and youth.
Luckily, there are some local and provincial resources available to help you come to that decision. The Okanagan Foster Parents Association (www.okfosterparents.ca) and Interior Community Services (www.interiorcommunityservices.bc.ca) are great sources of information on becoming a foster parent. For those already fostering, they also offer educational supports and tools to help you navigate these special relationships.
The Provincial Foster Line (1-800-663-9999) also offers assistance Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. They also offer service after-hours (1-888-495-4440) Monday to Friday from 4:00 p.m. to 12:45 a.m., and on weekends and statutory holidays from 8:00 a.m. to 12:45 a.m.
Often, the experience of fostering is so rewarding that foster parents make children in care a permanent part of their family. Of all children in care who are adopted, approximately 42 per cent are adopted by their foster family. Indeed, adoption is another important calling. We know that young people who have the foundation of a permanent home as they become adults have much better outcomes than their peers who age out of care without the support of a permanent family.
Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that the rewards of adoption are great. My daughter Naomi has made me proud since they day she joined our family. Raising her was not unlike raising our two other children, and we simply can’t imagine life without her. If you’ve ever considered adoption, the Adoptive Families Association of B.C. (www.bcadoption.com) is a wonderful organization to connect with for more information and resources.
We all have the capacity to love, and to extend a hand to those who need us—whether temporarily or permanently. I encourage you to think about what you might have to offer to B.C.’s children in need, especially during the 25th anniversary of Foster Family Month this October.