WATCH: Changing demographics and housing shortages are combining to create a perfect storm in Vancouver Island’s foster parent community. Now, as Kendall Hanson reports, agencies are pleading with people to open their hearts and homes to some of the most vulnerable children in their communities.
For the past 30 years, Herman Thomas and his wife have been very active, taking on close to 30 foster children, something he says that’s seemed very natural.
“The old people always looked after children when there were no such facilities as we’re in now,” said Thomas. “So we’re just carrying on after watching our aunts and uncles look after children so it seems like a natural thing to do.”
Nine years ago they fostered three siblings, and this past June they adopted them as their own. The signing of the papers was a celebration. Fostering and raising children is something they’ve enjoyed.
“It’s worthwhile because there’s so many children in need and it’s worthy,” said Thomas. “If you put your heart and mind into it the reward is going to be great.”
But there’s currently more demand for homes than there are parents willing to foster. Cowichan Tribes, is reaching out to their Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to help. An event with door prizes holding is set for this coming Tuesday (Oct. 10) for those interested in fostering.
“We’re looking for individuals who will come forward who will be foster parents for us,” said Band Councillor Farrett Elliott. “Not only to embrace the culture of our children, the sacredness of our children but looking at coming and being a part of our greater community, walking with us hand-in-hand.”
And the demand for foster parents is provincial in scope. B.C.s Ministry of Children and Families is trying to attract new foster families in light of an ageing foster community that’s retiring or reducing their help to part-time.
“When that happened we were realizing we weren’t replenishing our care providers as fast as we were needing them,” said Suzanne Jones with BC’s Ministry of Children and Family Development. “So as they moved up in their age ranges we weren’t necessarily replenishing them with people who could take care of newborns, preschoolers and toddlers for example.”
A campaign is underway in the greater Nanaimo area where there’s 243 children in care.
Requirements include being at least 19 years old, with a home with an extra bedroom(s), a valid driver’s license and transportation.
For more information you can go to the province’s recruitment website or call the Ministry of Children and Family Development in your community.