wanted - homes for kids
foster parenting for same sex couples
Did you know….?
The LGBT community can foster or adopt children! Family and Children’s Services Niagara (FACS) has embarked on a campaign to promote diversity and inform the Gay and Lesbian community that couples can foster and adopt children in Niagara, who are in need of a temporary or permanent home.
Many of Niagara’s children need love, support and nurturing during a difficult time in their lives. Currently, there are 562 children in foster care in our community, from newborn to age 16. With the number of foster families declining due to retirement, aging and other factors; there has never been a greater need for new people to get involved and make a difference in a child’s life.
The reasons children need foster care are varied. Parents or caregivers may not be able to meet their needs, or have issues with addiction, mental health or domestic violence. Because Niagara is facing a tough economy, this also stresses families and may impact their ability to parent effectively.
Fostering is a wonderful opportunity to be a part of your community in a unique way. ou can provide much needed care and stability, and help children and youth blossom and reach their potential.
“Kids really need support and guidance at this point in their lives,” says Denise Collins, Resource Department Supervisor for FACS Niagara. “You could be that person who changes their life.”
Collins says many people are hesitant to apply to become foster parents because there’s a belief they might not fit the “traditional” mold of the perceived foster family.
“Historically the feeling has been foster parents are two-parent heterosexual couples. But the foster care system must reflect the changes in our community and seek more diverse families,” Collins says.
“Communities are more open-minded are recognizing the strength in the LGBT community. Our foster care system should reflect the diversity of the community with all kinds of families from different backgrounds, religions, race, sexual orientations, singles and couples,” she added.
More and more same sex couples are adopting, but not many know that they can also foster. FACS Niagara wants to change that.
“We are reaching out to groups that maybe traditionally thought they weren’t able to foster, or they wouldn’t be accepted as foster parents, and let them know that things are changing,” said Collins.
Recently a male couple adopted a child. While completing the training and orientation program for adoptive and foster parents, they worried about the other parents’ attitudes toward them.
“They were a bit nervous at first, but it was an overwhelmingly positive experience for them,” she said. “They felt included. They weren’t treated any differently. So that was a really positive indicator for us that the agency and community support same sex families. Diversity is accepted and embraced. We have children from all kinds of backgrounds and families. We want to do everything we can to have foster families that reflect the communities we serve.”
“I hope that if we create awareness through as many LGBTQ media channels as possible, we will see an increase in applications,” said Collins. “Same sex couples are a group that is currently not represented, or underrepresented in the fostering community in Niagara. Perhaps they don’t know that it is a possibility, so we’ll start there. If we can get some families who are interested, we can gain more insight into how we connect further with LGBTQ community.”
FACS’ goal is to keep kids in their homes whenever possible and that happens 85% of the time. But when the child is unable to remain in their home, a foster home is needed.
“Sometimes we have to remove children when safety is an immediate concern. We try to get them back home as soon as possible, by working with families to address whatever issues brought them to our attention…Foster care is a temporary solution for kids whose parents can’t care for their children for many different reasons,” explained Collins.
A child may be placed with a foster family for a few weeks, months or longer. There are many variables which affect the length of placement, but Collins says planning for the child’s future begins as soon as possible. Are they going home, placed with relatives or will adoption be an option?
Prospective foster parents undergo an intensive screening process including: a ten-week training program, a home study, criminal and child welfare records checks, home safety assessment and must provide references. This can take 3-6 months to complete. Once approved, families can begin fostering children.
Collins says foster parents and children receive tremendous support from FACS to help ensure a positive experience. Financial support assists with the costs of caring for the child. Individual staff support the foster parents and the child, working together towards the best possible outcomes.
For more information about fostering a child visit www.facsniagara.on.ca or call Denise Collins directly at 905-937-7731 (ext. 3593).
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