Greater need for foster parents

  • March 1, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - The need for foster care parents fluctuates with time and location, but financial hardships in Canada could result in a much greater demand for help, according to children’s aid societies in Toronto.

“There’s a shortage of foster homes in general,” said Bervin Garraway, supervisor of foster care development for Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto . “We have not seen (a huge drop) but anticipate there will be.”

Garraway said agencies in Toronto are seeing a higher need for foster parents who match the same ethnic background as the children in need. The CCAS is currently looking to match children with parents who share the same Latino, Filipino, Portuguese and Afro-Canadian cultural backgrounds. Garraway said the CCAS tries to offer children continuity in their particular ethnic background and language as well as their Catholic faith. This is one reason why the society began an outreach campaign in Catholic parishes and schools this past October to inform the community on how parents can get involved.

How to become a foster parent

Carolyn Girard, The Catholic Register

TORONTO - Becoming a foster parent may seem daunting, but the amount of information and training available sometimes surprises people, children’s aid agencies say.

Bervin Garraway, supervisor of Foster Care Development for the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, said becoming a foster parent is a multi-step process.

“If they contact us, we would send them the information and if they wanted to proceed, they could then come in for an information session where they can meet a foster parent and an agency staff member who could answer all their questions.”

The next step, once parents decide to become foster parents, is to fill out an application form and sign up for pre-service training. The mandatory training typically runs for nine sessions, during which the potential foster parents are assigned a worker who will interview the family and find out its capabilities and preferences.

“Their worker will determine what age group they are interested in and, based on their situation, what the appropriate age group is for that family,” he said.

The mandatory training is the same as that required for adopting parents.

If the children they are taking in have special medical, behavioural or emotional needs, the foster parents would receive further training and support accordingly.

To become a foster parent through CCAS, call (416) 395-0558 or visit

“We want to make sure that our families are from the Catholic community,” Garraway said. “We also try not to separate siblings, but if they are, we try to get them reunited as much as possible.”

Foster parents are allowed to house up to four children. However if they become a licensed home as highly skilled foster parents they can take up to six.

Garraway said with the current financial crisis, he anticipates there will be more stresses on the family that can result in neglect or abuse.

The CCAS is currently facing a greater need for foster homes for both teenagers and infants, with some requiring special attention because they are medically fragile or have learning disabilities. It would be helpful to have new foster parents come forward who are also medical professionals or who have experience with particular needs, he said, but the CCAS offers training for parents with little or no knowledge of these challenges.

CCAS currently has 144 foster families in the Toronto area. But the number of homes decreases as foster parents retire from foster care or move away. Foster parents come and go, like employees at just about any company, Garraway said.

When it runs out of available foster parents, CCAS sends the children to private foster agencies that may not be faith-based. These agencies will place the children in homes that agree to raise them according to their Catholic faith (even if the foster parents are not Catholic themselves) by making sure they can attend Mass and enrol in Catholic schools for example, Garraway said.

CCAS is part of Homes for Kids, a foster parent recruitment program serving child protection agencies in Ontario. 

Marc MacDonald, foster care development supervisor for Toronto Children’s Aid Society confirmed that the other members of Homes for Kids have also seen a lagging interest in the past few months.

“There’s an increase in the amount of teens coming into care and the number of calls coming through (from new families willing to become foster parents) has dropped,” MacDonald said.

That trend seems to be popular across the province, he added, although with more ethnic minorities, Toronto faces a unique challenge.

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